February is Heart Health Month

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Statistics for both men and women are alarming—in 2008 heart disease caused almost 25% of deaths in the United States. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women but there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce your risk and make your heart healthier. Read on to find out how:

Exercise As Much As You Can
To prevent heart disease, U.S. and global guidelines call for 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, ideally spread out so you get some on most days. However, researchers at the Loughborough University in England found that any amount of activity helped cut the risk of dying of heart disease by about 40 percent, compared to being a couch potato. The lesson? Get in as much exercise as you can and don’t worry if it’s less than the recommended amount.

Stop Smoking
Smoking is one of the top controllable risk factors for heart disease. If you smoke, you can get help quitting and staying quit. Giving up tobacco products makes a huge difference to not just your heart, but your overall health, too.

Choose Good Nutrition
A healthy diet is one of the best weapons against cardiovascular disease. Since the food you eat can affect many health factors—like cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, and your obesity level—choose a diet that emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and legumes are important, too! To maintain your health weight, coordinate your diet with your physical activity level so you’re using up as many calories as you take in.

Reduce Stress
Studies have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person’s life that may affect the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. For example, people under stress may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they otherwise would. Research has even shown that stress reaction in young adults predicts middle-age blood pressure risk.

Manage Blood Pressure
About 80 million US adults—about 33%—have high blood pressure. Lifestyle changes, such as a low-salt diet, exercise, and sticking to a healthy weight can reduce blood pressure. An optimal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg. Remember to take your medications as prescribed by your doctor and make sure your blood pressure gets down and stays down.