How to care for one of the body’s most vital organs
February is celebrated as a season of love. It’s a month widely associated with Valentine’s Day, romantic gestures, and heart-shaped everything. February also marks American Heart Month. Beyond the exchange of chocolate, flowers, and affection with loved ones, this month inspires the nurturing of our hearts, both emotionally and physically. From staying hydrated to exercising, read on for ways to support a healthy heart.
Eat Heart-Healthy Food
Incorporate heart-healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy proteins, healthy fats like oily fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, some whole grains instead of refined grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, non-processes lean meats, poultry, and dairy into your diet. Minimize added sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt. Substituting herbs and spices instead of salt is also a healthy option. Nuts, seeds, avocado, olives and healthy oils like olive oil (other than palm and coconut oil), contain heart-healthy poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, which are a better choice than foods high in animal fats such as butter, heavy cream, and meat fats.
Begin with a small and realistic goal for daily or weekly movement, and aim to work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activity each week.
Your heart is always working and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood a day, which is why staying hydrated is key to supporting your heart health. Water is the best source to stay hydrated and it’s important to ensure that you’re consuming enough water daily. Vegetables and fruits are also good food sources for hydration.
Reduce Stress Levels
High-stress levels can take a toll on your heart health. Incorporating mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, and breathwork can help relieve stress, ultimately leading to a healthier heart.
Prioritize Your Sleep
Good sleep is essential to good health, and getting adequate rest can help support a healthy heart. The CDC recommends that most adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.
Keep Your Blood Pressure in a Good Range
High blood pressure often doesn’t have specific symptoms, which is why it’s important to monitor your blood pressure by attending annual physicals and if needed, using a self-measured blood pressure monitor at home. If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, making diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes can help lower your blood pressure and support a healthy heart. Your doctor might recommend medication to help lower your blood pressure.
Minimize Alcohol Intake
If you consume alcohol, drink it mindfully and in moderation by limiting daily consumption to no more than 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men.
We all know smoking cigarettes has a negative effect on your lungs and overall health, but it can also be harmful to your heart health. Smoking damages the heart and blood vessels very quickly. Chemicals in cigarette smoke cause the cells that line blood vessels to become swollen and inflamed. This can narrow the blood vessels and can lead to many cardiovascular conditions. The damage from smoking can be repaired for most smokers who stop smoking. Even long-time smokers can see rapid health improvements when they quit.
If you have any questions about your heart, scheduling an appointment, or your treatment, consult your doctor.