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February is American Heart Month - 5 Ways to Healthy Hearts

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans and claims 1 in 3 women's lives. February is AmericanHeart Month, and February 5th is National Wear Red Day. The goal is to inspire and motivate yourself and those you love to make heart health a regular part of your self-care routine. This year's theme from the American Heart Association for American Heart Month is the development of the Days of Self-Care:

#MindfulMonday Know your blood pressure numbers and other heart stats!

• #TastyTuesday Try a tasty, heart-healthy recipe - Click here for some heart friendly tips!

#WellnessWednesday Put your heart into a wellness routine

#TreatYourselfThursday Treat yourself to some relaxation and fun

#FollowFriday Share who inspires you to show your heart more love

#SelfieSaturday Post about your favorite way to take care of your heart

#SelfcareSunday Create your self-care checklist for the week.

The Facts:

  • Heart disease kills more people than all forms of cancer combined.

  • Heart attacks affect more people every year than the population of Dallas, Texas.

  • 83% believe that heart attacks can be prevented but aren't motivated to do anything.

  • 72% of Americans don't consider themselves at risk for heart disease.

  • And 58% put no effort into improving their heart health.

5 Ways to A Heart Healthy

Increase your physical activity

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The good news is you can dramatically reduce your risk of getting it or having a stroke by just being more physically active. As little as 60 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as walking, dramatically helps your heart. For a significant increase in health benefits, extending your activity to just 20 minutes a day can greatly increase heart health. Those days that are just too hectic to dedicate that much time, here are a few quick and easy exercises to increase heart health.

• Walking briskly for 5 minutes

• Dancing (standing or seated) to three of your favorite songs

• Getting off the bus or ride share early to walk a few extra steps to your destination

You'll know you are moving enough if your heart is beating faster, you are breathing harder, or you are breaking a sweat.

Know and Control Your Heart Health Numbers

Every second your heart beats, it pumps blood through vessels, called arteries, to the rest of your body. Your blood pressure is how hard your blood pushes against the walls of the arteries. If your blood flows at higher than normal pressures, you may have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

High blood pressure can be a major risk for your heart and increase your chances of developing heart disease. Many people have high blood pressure, but 'don't know they have it or how to combat it. It is important to take steps to understand your heart rate with your doctor. High blood pressure is often referred to as the silent killer, causing conditions such as heart disease, strokes, kidney disease, and even dementia. Consult with your doctor and test yourself regularly to keep your blood pressure under control. Blood pressure checks are often available for free at clinics or pharmacies. Try to check at consistent times of the day and rest one minute before having it checked.

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

Eating healthy and being physically active are two ways to help lower your risk and your loved ones' risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that eating and physical activity habits are formed early in life.

One way to eat a healthy diet is choosing a variety of foods. Variety matters because no one food has all the nutrients that your heart and the rest of your body need to stay healthy. Here are some foods to focus on incorporating into your diet that can decrease your risk of heart disease.

• fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products

• lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts

• foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and artificial sweeteners

• Beverages low in sugar and low fat

Achieving Quality Sleep and Reduce Stress

The average person sleeps 26 years in their entire lifetime. Whether we realize it or not, we spend more time sleeping than almost anything else we do in our lives. That's why it is even more important to understand that good sleeping habits can dramatically affect your health and your heart.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the average person get between 7-9 hours of sleep. Getting enough sleep can benefit your health in many ways and is also a major factor in reducing stress.

The keys to healthy sleep include a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding heavy meals within a few hours of sleep, avoiding excessive TV or computer glare immediately before bedtime. Helpful remedies to optimal sleep can be temperature (not too cold and not too warm) and a dark room. Restful sleep is important to heart health, and waking up refreshed leads to an overall improved day!

High personal or professional stress can lead to negative impacts on your heart. Bad stress can also impede your sleep habits. Besides understanding the root of the stress and removing that (sometimes not quickly done if your stress involves family or your job), meditation and mindfulness (thinking about nothing) can be some strategies to reduce stress. Incorporating fun activities or playing with children can be great ways to reduce stress or increase activity levels to offset some of the stress. Often professional help may be needed to find other alternatives to reduce stress.

Stop Smoking

Cigarette smoking causes 1 in every five deaths in the United States each year. ' 'It's the leading preventable cause of death and illness in the United States.

Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, including the heart, lungs, eyes, and other major organs. The chemicals in tobacco smoke also cause harm to our blood vessels. This damage increases atherosclerosis, in which plaque builds up around your arteries. Over time, the plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. Plaque restricts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your major organs, including your heart.

Additional information about heart health month can be found on our website or at the American Heart Association. If you experience inadequate sleep after trying some helpful tips above around sleep habits and stress relievers, please consult your physician.

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