Getting ready for Valentine’s Day next month? Make sure your heart is in great shape! February is Heart Health Month, an important reminder to check in with your body and your health habits. Heart disease may be the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States, but it is also preventable. By making small changes in your routine and reading up on risks and warning signs, NYXT wants you to start the year off right with our four top tips for heart health.
1. Get a checkup
Getting to your doctor for an annual exam might seem like a chore, but it is one of the best ways to protect your heart and overall health. A checkup and some basic blood work can help your doctor to identify key risk factors like high cholesterol and blood pressure. Based on your results, your healthcare provider may recommend medications or simple changes, such as decreasing your sodium intake or taking aspirin daily, that can keep you healthy for years to come.
Some medical conditions, like kidney disease or diabetes, increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. A doctor who is familiar with your personal medical history can monitor you and will pay particular attention to your heart’s performance. And because managing chronic illness and understanding the effects your condition might have on other aspects of your health can be a challenge, organizations like the National Kidney Foundation and Healtheo360 can help you find quality information and communities of support.
2. Be active!
Exercise can drastically reduce your chance of disease by strengthening your heart muscles and helping you maintain a healthy weight. The Surgeon General recommends getting 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week to keep your heart healthy. Does that sound like a lot? Adding physical activity to a busy day, or starting a new exercise regime may seem intimidating, but it can be as easy as adding a short walk before dinner or choosing to run errands on foot, rather than take the subway.
To make exercise fun, try a new activity like a dance or yoga class, and use exercise as an opportunity to make plans to see a friend. New experiences can be less intimidating with the support of another newbie, and you’ll be more accountable to your commitment with a buddy waiting for you. Getting active is worth it: studies have shown that regular physical activity can reduce coronary heart disease by 25% or more.
3. Make small but meaningful diet changes
Your diet plays a huge part in your heart health. A diet rich in whole grains, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables can help to balance cholesterol and blood pressure and has a direct impact on your risk of heart attack and disease. And improving your diet doesn’t have to be a massive overhaul; small changes can make a big difference. Simple swaps like these can enhance the quality of your diet, without making waves:
- Swap a snack that is high in salt and sugar, like a bag of chips, for a low-sodium snack like a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts once a day
- Add a handful of leafy greens and fruits to your smoothies
- Swap meat for fish one night a week for dinner
- Replace butter with olive oil for cooking
4. Learn the Warning Signs
Approximately 2 out of 3 people have symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, or fatigue in the days or weeks leading up to their heart attack. Knowing the symptoms of heart disease might help you to recognize them in yourself and let you know when it’s time to visit the doctor. Recognizing the warning signs of a heart attack might save your life when minutes matter: the faster you call for and receive treatment, the better your chances of survival and full recovery.
Did you know that coronary artery disease usually occurs in women about ten years earlier? And that heart attacks in women may have different symptoms than for men? Women are more likely than men to feel nausea or stomach pain and may feel pain in the back or jaw, rather than in the chest. Just like with understanding your baseline health, knowledge is one of your best defenses against a heart attack!
Join us during Heart Health Month in making small changes to increase your awareness, fitness, and overall health. For information on managing your health, visit our NYXT partners:
- Healtheo360 is an online network where patients living with chronic ailments can come to find support, encouragement, and information.
- National Kidney Foundation is the USA's leading organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease.
- Planned Parenthood of Greater New York empowers individuals to make independent, informed decisions about their health by providing health care and information and services to everyone.
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