“Simple steps you can take to protect against heart disease all year long.”
Love Your Heart
February 10, 2016 - During February, many Americans see the human heart as a symbol of love, but this month is also American Heart Month, a time to show yourself the love. We invite both men and women to take time to examine your life and how you can make it more heart-friendly, not just for you but for your loved ones. Consider this a heart-healthy guide for daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly upkeep.
Just say no. “The most important thing you can do for your heart is live a tobacco-free life,” says B. Shields Stutts, MD, a board-certified cardiologist with nearly 40 years of experience. After just 12 hours of being smoke-free, your heart rate and blood pressure drop, and the carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal.
Slow down on the salt. Don’t go over 1,500 milligrams per day, as recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). Most of the salt you consume is in package foods, so start by checking the sodium content on nutrition labels and choosing low-sodium options.
Fill up on fiber. The AHA recommends at least 25 grams per day (one cup of black beans has about 12 grams), which may help lower cholesterol and reduce risk for heart disease.
Get active. “Sitting kills you,” Dr. Stutts says. “Lead a physically active life and aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week.” And, yes, brisk walking counts.
Eat (mostly) healthy. You don’t have to cut out all foods your love. Dr. Stutts advocates the 80/20 rule: “If 80% of the time you’re doing the right thing, then 20% you can slip a little bit.”
Hit the drugstore. “Very effective heart medications are now generic,” Dr. Stutts says. Don’t let cost keep you from refilling your prescriptions. Talk to your doctor immediately if you’re unable to afford a medication.
Become a regular. See your doctor annually for a checkup, and keep up with your screenings. Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years, your cholesterol at least every five years, and your blood sugar every three years.