Heart Health Awareness Month: 5 Ways To Support a Healthy Heart*

February is heart health awareness month. It’s a time to reflect on the importance of cardiovascular health and learn about how we can manage our risk factors for heart disease.

Heart disease is a range of conditions that affect the structure of the function of the heart. This includes conditions like coronary artery disease,1 arrhythmias, congenital heart defects, valvular heart disease, and cardiomyopathy.2

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease accounted for 868,662 deaths in the US in 2017. And it’s the leading cause of death worldwide every year.3

Many aspects of modern life can increase the risk of heart disease. Poor diet,4 lack of proper exercise,4 excessive alcohol intake4, high stress,5 and smoking4 can all take a toll on your cardiovascular health over time. Pre-existing medical conditions like high cholesterol and diabetes can also increase risk factors.4

Despite the challenges, there’s still some hope—some risk factors linked to heart disease can be lowered with intentional lifestyle changes. Here are five tips to help you support good heart health this February and beyond.

man walking up stairs

1. Get Active

Heart-pumping physical activity is a great way to keep your cardiovascular system strong.

The American Heart Association recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise like biking, walking, jogging, or swimming, every week.6 If that sounds a little intimidating, you can always split it up into 10 or 15 minute-long sessions.

Small choices can have a big impact on your daily activity. Choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park a little further away for extra walking time.

plate of salmon and other omega rich foods

2. Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

Establish healthy eating habits. Heart-loving foods like salmon, beans, berries and oats are great choices for a balanced diet.7

Limit nutrient-deficient foods that are packed with refined sugars, saturated fats, and excessive sodium.7 And try to stay away from processed foods as much as possible—cook at home whenever you can.

Check out some of our favorite Plant-Based Dishes for some culinary inspiration. These flavorful recipes are packed full of heart-healthy nutrients like fresh veggies, nuts, and wholesome herbs and spices.7

woman reading a book

3. Stress Less

With all the demands of work, school, and family, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But stress causes an increase in cortisol levels, which can have a serious impact on your mental and physical health.8

It’s important to schedule time for self-care when you’re feeling stressed out. Regularly practicing meditation, yoga, or mindfulness are great ways to add a little more zen to your life.

Don’t be afraid to slow down and take a break when you’re feeling burnt out. Your heart will thank you.

woman lying in bed sleeping

4. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important (but often overlooked) factors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, every night. Commit to going to bed and waking up around the same time every day.9

If you struggle with falling asleep at night, set a bedtime routine to help you wind down at the end of a long day. Limit screen time in the last hour before you go to bed or relax with a calming chamomile tea.

woman speaking to her doctor

5. Reduce Risk Factors

While you’re making important diet and lifestyle changes, it’s also a good idea to schedule regular checkups with your doctor to support a healthy heart.

Screen for diabetes (which can lead to heart complications),10 and work with your doctor to maintain a healthy cholesterol level.11

With increased awareness, education, and lifestyle changes, you can live a healthier, happier, and more active life. Heart Health Month is a reminder of the choices you can make to support a healthy heart as you age, and help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

1Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Retrieved on Jan 25, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/about.htm

2Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Retrieved on Jan 25, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/other_conditions.htm

4Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Retrieved on Jan 25, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/risk_factors.htm#

5American Heart Association. (2021). Retrieved on Jan 26, 2022. (https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health)

6Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Retrieved on Jan 25, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/prevention.htm

8American Psychological Association. (2018). Retrieved on Jan 25, 2022. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body

9Center for Disease Control. (2021). Retrieved on Jan 25, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/sleep.htm

10Center for Disease Control. (2021). Retrieved on Jan 25, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-and-heart.html#

11Center for Disease Control. (2021). Retrieved on Jan 25, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/checked.htm

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