February is American Heart Month, a month dedicated to learning about the ways to live heart healthy lives. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women – one in every four deaths is attributed to heart disease in the United States. About 610,000 die each year from heart disease.
In this article, we talk about the steps you can take to prevent heart disease.
As you read through the advice below, keep in mind that it can take time to change your habits. Family Medicine clinician, Dr. Rani Whitfield, told the AHA that it can take two to three months for new habits to start to feel normal and not like a chore. “You have to keep after it,” the article says. “If you forget sometimes, or if at first you don’t figure how to make it work…keep after it.”
Be patient and persistent as you work on making these changes in your life!
Here at Performance Physical Therapy, we have a saying: movement in medicine. Exercising is one of the best ways to strengthen your body, and it helps guard against a number of problems: heart disease, stroke, obesity, and more.
The AHA suggests that you slowly work up to doing at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (like fast walking) each week. That means that eventually, you’d be doing moderate physical activity for 30 minutes, five days a week. If you have less time to spare, you can try for 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (like jogging) each week — but make sure not to do too much too fast. Either way, at least two days a week, you should do muscle-strengthening exercises.
Kids should always get at least 60 minutes of activity a day.
In January, physical therapist Dr. Rob Gruttadauria offered a suggested workout schedule that’s perfect for people new to exercising, or for those who have taken a long break from it. Organizations like the AHA and American Physical Therapy Association have a ton of ideas as well: including ideas like this, this and this.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on your heart rate so you know when to back off or step it up!
Moving won’t save you from heart disease if you eat poorly every day. A healthy diet is an integral part of heart health.
|Things to Eat||Things to Avoid|
|Eat More Fruits and Veggies||
|Choose Whole Grains||
|Limit Unhealthy Fats||
|Choose low-fat proteins||
The AHA notes the following about how smoking damages your heart:
- Nicotine makes your heart rate and blood pressure skyrocket.
- Carbon monoxide and tobacco rob your heart, brain and arteries of oxygen.
- It damages your blood vessels and makes your blood sticky – a recipe for blood clots.
- It lowers your tolerance for physical activity and decreases HDL (good) cholesterol.
- If you take oral contraceptives it increases your blood pressure and risk for stroke and heart attack.