Celebrating American Heart Month 2023
February isn’t all heart-shaped chocolates and heartfelt gestures— it’s also a time to show some love to your own heart! During American Heart Month, the topic of conversation is cardiovascular health. There is so much we can’t control in life, yet, we do have a say when it comes to our cardiovascular health. A healthy heart starts with healthy lifestyle choices. Keep reading for five ways you can take care of your heart this month and every month. ↴
1. Move Your Body
Exercise is an essential component of a healthy life, both physically and mentally. So, how much exercise do you need to reap the rewards? The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends two and a half hours of physical activity each week, broken into five 30-minute sessions.
Everyday life gets busy, and it can be hard to find the time to exercise. The AHA shared these seven ways to sneak regular exercise into your busy days.
2. Minimize Stress
Stress shows up in many areas of our lives— whether you’re buying your first home, starting a new job, or taking on extra tasks at work, it’s important to know how to manage stress to protect your heart health and overall wellness. Here are some tips to help manage stress:
Get some exercise
Try out meditation
Spend time with loved ones
Find or revisit a hobby to distract your mind
Make time for rest (make resting a sustainable practice instead of treating it as a reward or last resort after burning out!)
3. Eat Heart-Healthy Foods
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute tells us that heart-healthy eating means limiting foods that negatively impact your heart health and eating more foods that support it (simple concept, right?)
Fat-free or low-fat dairy and dairy alternatives
High-protein foods like eggs, fish, lean meats, and beans
Foods with “good fats” (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats)
Vegetable and seed-based oils (Olive, Avocado, Sunflower, etc.)
High sodium foods
Highly processed foods
Reading food labels, eating at home more, limiting pre-made meals or ingredients, and other lifestyle changes can help support a heart-healthy diet as well. Check out this article for more on heart-healthy eating, and save these heart-healthy recipes to get started!
Note: Eating heart-healthy foods and being on a cardiac diet are very different. Be sure to discuss any dietary changes with your doctor before making them.
4. Prioritize Sleep
Sleep. It’s an essential process that, if uncared for, has a detrimental effect on our mental and physical health. Yet, between 50 and 70 million people suffer from sleep issues in the US each year. Problems with sleep are linked to weight issues, inflammation, diabetes, and increased risk of heart attack and stroke— all dire consequences for something many of us neglect or can’t seem to get quite right. You can improve your sleep regime by:
Establishing and sticking to a bedtime and morning routine
Avoiding caffeine and sugar before bed
Avoiding eating within two hours of bedtime
Sleeping in a cool, dark, quiet room
Discussing sleep issues with your doctor
5. Keep Up with Doctor’s Appointments
When it comes to your health, the most important thing you can do is talk to your doctor. Excluding health issues, illnesses, and people on medications that require monitoring, people under the age of 50 should see their doctor every 2-3 years, while people over 50 should go at least once a year.
If you’re experiencing health issues or want to understand your risk of cardiovascular disease, seeking guidance from your primary care physician should be your first step! They can direct you to a cardiologist or other specialist related to your health concerns. Remember, their job is to help you live a happy, healthy life!
We know this is all easier said than done. Balancing work, family, chores, friends, hobbies, and all the other areas of life can make it challenging to focus on your health. Thankfully, small changes can make a big difference. Take this month to figure out how to find movement, reduce stress, eat healthily, get some sleep, and stay on top of doctor’s appointments. Then, see how that can all fit in with your busy life throughout the year. Your heart, health, older self, and loved ones will thank you! And don’t forget to celebrate all the other heart-shaped fun this time of year— Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy American Heart Month to you.
Further Reading & Resources ↴
National institution dedicated to research, training, and education on heart, lung, and blood health to support health longevity for all.
Federally-funded educational program raising awareness of heart disease as the leading cause of death for women.
United States’ oldest and largest volunteer organization dedicated to the fight against heart disease and stroke.
Nation’s largest science-backed and data-based organization focused on improving and promoting public health.
National initiative co-led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services with a mission to prevent one million cardiovascular-related deaths by 2027.