4 ways to love your heart

4 ways to love your heart

It’s February and we are surrounded by hearts, and not only the paper and chocolate versions. There are the human ones too—the beating hearts of more than 300 million Americans.

Unfortunately, we’re also surrounded by heart disease. In the United States, it’s the leading cause of death for both men and women. But it can be prevented and controlled. Even in a short month’s time, you can do a lot to take better care of your heart, say four health care providers who care for hearts on a daily basis. Each of them is part of the staff at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center’s Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Services in Normal, Ill.

February is a good month to fall in love—with your heart.  Follow these tips week by week to get your heart beating healthily:

Week 1:
Scrutinize labels. Reading food labels is important so that you can compute the total intake of salt, fat, cholesterol and fiber for the day. Be sure to take note of the serving size when determining the amounts, says Karen Dodd, a registered nurse clinician. Unhealthy fats and cholesterol can clog arteries. Salt can raise blood pressure. Sugar can pack on pounds. To avoid these risks for heart disease, look for foods with unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids and low percentages of sodium and sugar. Also choose many fresh fruits and vegetables.

Week 2:
Get moving. Like all muscles, your heart needs exercise. This week—and every week—aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking. Strength training, such as lifting hand weights, weighted balls or elastic band use, is a great addition to staying physically active. Strength training has been proven to reduce LDL cholesterol levels while improving heart health, says Chris Carr, a cardiopulmonary exercise specialist. Share your heart-healthy habit with a loved one—invite him or her to get moving with you.

Week 3:
Know your numbers. If you don’t know your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, make an appointment this week with your doctor to have them checked. High blood pressure or high LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) can put you at risk for heart disease. Also, being overweight makes heart disease more likely. Heidi Heite, a registered nurse clinician, reminds us that normal blood pressure at rest should be less than 120/80 mm Hg on more than one reading. Your blood pressure will vary according to the time of day, type of activity or timing of medications you may be on. It is important to note that some over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine can increase your blood pressure, so be aware.

Week 4:
Vow to quit. Smoking harms the heart as well as the lungs. Rita Kane, a registered respiratory therapist, suggests picking a quit date and sticking to it. Make sure to tell your family, friends and co-workers that you are quitting so they can provide support and encouragement. Be aware, smoking also hurts your family and friends because exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger heart problems in them. So quitting is an act of love—not only for your heart but also for all the hearts that surround you.

For more information on heart health and to take Advocate’s heart risk assessment, visit iHeartAdvocate.com.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.