By: Hope Gamper, Editorial Intern
February and American Heart Month are ending, but just because March is around the corner doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about keeping your heart in tip-top shape.
The American Heart Association (AHA), whose mission is to fight cardiovascular diseases and stroke, and the UM Heart Center offer a series of lifestyle recommendations for optimizing your heart health all year round.
Working out regularly is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 times a week (if you can’t do 30 minutes at a time, you can add up 10-minute sessions throughout the day).
Also try working in exercise to your normal routine:
- Instead of driving to the store, walk or bike.
- Park in a spot farther from your destination.
- Keep dumbbells near the remote so you can stay active while watching TV.
Skip the Snacks
What you eat is just as important as what you do. Swapping out foods heavy with added sodium and fat for nutrient-rich foods can help you manage your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. Here is a list of foods to fix and foods to nix.
Fix more foods high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, including:
- Fruits and veggies
- Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, barley and buckwheat
- Low-fat dairy products
- Protein sources – poultry, fish and nuts
Nix processed foods and those that tend to be high in sodium and fat, including:
- Sugary foods and beverages
- Red meat
- Deep fried foods or foods cooked in butter
Tobacco and other ingredients common in cigarettes frequently contribute to heart disease. Even secondhand smoke kills nearly 70,000 people each year.
The good news is that when you quit smoking you see short term benefits right away, and it only takes about 5 to 15 years to reduce stroke risk to that similar of a nonsmoker. There is still time to reverse the damage caused by tobacco and ensure that your heart keeps pumping for many years to come.
Heart disease accounts for 1 in 4 deaths each year, making these types of incremental changes vital to reducing your risk of heart related illness and keeping your heart well for all of life’s challenges, in February or any other month.