All of those heart decorations that we see this time of year can be a good reminder to take care of our own heart. February is around the corner and it's the time to recognize American Heart month.
The American Heart Association has developed the My Life Check - Life's Simple 7. This resource helps educate us on some simple steps we can take for a healthy heart.
Those seven steps are:
To read more about Life's Simple 7 and for tips on how to work on these steps above, you can visit the My Life Check - Life's Simple 7 webpage.
- Eat better. Eat more heart-healthy foods like fish, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Cut back on saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, cholesterol, and added sugars.
- Get active. Aim for 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week. If you get less than that, try to increase the amount each week until you reach that goal. Children should be active a minimum of 60 minutes, but can benefit from more.
- Control cholesterol. Saturated fats and trans fats can raise cholesterol levels. The cholesterol you eat in foods matters, but so do the fats. A healthy cholesterol level is under 200 mg/dL. Genetics also has an impact on cholesterol levels, so if a physician recommends medication due to that, make sure you take it properly.
- Manage blood pressure. To improve your blood pressure, make sure you are physically active, eat a heart-healthy diet (including lowering sodium), manage stress, limit alcohol, and quit using tobacco. A normal blood pressure is 120/80 and under. High blood pressure is sometimes called the "silent killer" because it can be very dangerous and have no symptoms.
- Lose weight. BMI (body mass index) is a measure of our height and weight. You can calculate your BMI here. Anyone with a BMI higher than 30 could benefit from weight loss, even a small amount.
- Reduce blood sugar. A healthy range for blood sugar is under 100. Higher levels than that could indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes. Cut back on added sugars in soda, candy, and sugary desserts and get regular physical activity to keep blood sugar in a safe range. If medication or insulin has been prescribed by a physician, make sure to take it correctly.
- Stop smoking. The American Heart Association has a webpage with help on quitting smoking. Quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Smoking damages the cardiovascular system and increases risk for heart disease.