February is American Heart Month, and all across the country people are taking steps to minimize their risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease, which affects the blood flow to the heart and can cause a heart attack. What can be done to help prevent this? Show your heart some love this month, and all year round.
The heart is an important muscle located in the center of the chest, and slightly to the left. As a muscle, it requires special care and consideration to keep it healthy. Use these 5 tips to keep your heart in tip-top shape.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
Include fresh fruits and vegetables with fewer processed foods in your daily meals. Avoid foods rich in cholesterol, saturated fats or trans fats; including egg yolks, fried foods, full fat cheese, milk or butter, and bakery items with hidden fats. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, what you eat matters over time and the correct mix can help you stay healthy now, and in the future. Find suggested dietary guidelines from ChooseMyPlate.Gov.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity increases the risk for heart disease. Find your Body Mass Index (BMI) to measure your body type on the CDC website. More than one-third of U.S. adults are considered obese, and this can cause not only increased disease risks, but higher medical costs. Weight is a result of many factors including family history, diet, environment, genetics and more. Visit a doctor to determine the causes and the best plan of action for your body.
3. Exercise Daily
Spend at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. This includes brisk walking, bicycling or jogging. Children and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes of exercise at least five days a week. Looking for opportunities during the day can help keep your blood flowing and body moving like: parking farther away, taking the stairs, and getting up throughout the day to move around.
4. Alcohol and Smoking
Drinking large amounts of alcohol increases fat and calories in the body, and raises blood pressure. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease and fatty build up in the arteries, causing heart attacks, stroke, and other diseases. By limiting alcohol intake and quitting smoking, risk for cancer and diseases down the road can be lowered.
5. Treat Medical Conditions
Cholesterol and high blood pressure can raise the risk of heart disease over time. There are two types of cholesterol in the body, bad (LDL) and good (HDL). Too much of one, or not enough of another, can put the body at serious risk. High blood pressure can be caused by stress, lack of exercise, family history, or a poor diet. Visiting the doctor regularly for check-ups can help detect and prevent damage to the body.
A heart attack can be caused by any of the above factors. When blood flow to the heart is quickly and suddenly cut off, the decrease in the supply of oxygen and nutrients can cause lasting damage to the heart. Signs of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Arm discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating and clammy skin
- Stomach Pains and feelings of indigestion
- Women are more likely than men to experience:
- Unusual fatigue
- Sleep disturbances and anxiety
- Throat, jaw and neck discomfort
Heart attacks symptoms vary from person to person, and often times even those who have had attacks before, may not recognize the signs. If you or a loved one think you might be experiencing symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately or ask some to drive you to the nearest emergency room for care.