Valentine’s Day is coming up. With all the talk of hearts and flowers and chocolates, we thought it might be a good idea to talk about ways to keep your heart healthy and strong.
Sometimes if a little bit is good, more is even better—especially when it comes to healthy habits and heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) has pinpointed seven habits found to contribute to a healthy heart. Do your heart some good and follow them all.
Measures of heart health
The AHA established a goal for the nation’s cardiovascular health for the next decade: “By 2020, to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent.” How does the AHA hope to achieve this? One way is to educate people about the relationship between lifestyle habits and heart disease.
Enter the seven heart-healthy habits:
• Manage blood pressure. High blood pressure is the most significant risk factor for heart disease. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80.
• Get active. Getting moderate exercise about 30 minutes most days helps reduce the risk of heart disease, because it helps lower blood pressure, increase good cholesterol, control blood sugar, and control body weight.
• Control cholesterol. Too much “bad” cholesterol in the blood can clog arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Get your cholesterol checked. If your doctor says your cholesterol is too high, follow the doctor’s advice for lowering it.
• Eat better. Vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products pack a powerful nutrient punch without a lot of calories. Include more of these foods and reduce your intake of highly processed and high-fat foods and salt.
• Lose weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Visit the WPS Health Center and use our interactive body mass index (BMI) calculator. If your BMI index is 25 or higher, start losing excess pounds with help from your doctor.
• Reduce blood sugar. Adults with diabetes are more likely to have heart disease than those without it. Get your blood sugar level checked. If it’s above 100 mg/dL, follow your doctor’s advice to safely lower it.
• Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, especially if you have other risk factors.
So while you’re enjoying this Valentine’s Day, pick two or three of these heart-healthy habits to get started on! After you finish that box of chocolate, of course.