February is American Heart Month, which draws attention to the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. Although certain risk factors are unavoidable (family history, age), it is possible to reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 80 percent with just a few lifestyle changes. Of course eating right and staying active will only benefit you when it comes to preventing heart disease and other health issues, but there are other measures that you can take to even further lower the risk. So take your first steps toward a healthier heart this month with this advice in mind.
Many of us forget that one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to get the right amount of sleep. Not sleeping enough can lead to a slower metabolism, making it more difficult to lose weight. A lack of sleep can also lead to other unhealthy habits like late night snacking. So how much sleep should you get? Well, everyone is different. Different people will need different amounts, but most people need around 7 hours of sleep per night. This benefits not only your heart, but your immune system too.
There are lots of things that you can do to improve your sleep habits. First, try to have a night time routine so that you can get into the habit of going to bed at a decent hour. It’s also a good idea to avoid extra caffeine, especially at night. And, of course, make sure you’re getting enough exercise.
Keep a Food Diary
Keeping a food diary can make it easier to see if you’re making healthy food choices. You’ll be able to pick out your bad habits and see what you can do to fix them. Keeping a food diary allows you to track if you’re eating enough food, drinking enough water and getting enough servings of fruits and vegetables. You can also track if you’re consuming too much sugar or fatty foods. With work and other daily activities you might have going on, it might be hard for you to stop and write down everything that you eat. To remedy this, there are tons of apps that let you quickly input what you eat and go on with your day. Some apps even allow you to input how much you exercise and scan barcodes on your favorite snacks to make entering the information even easier. Two that come to immediate mind are My Fitness Pal and Lose It.
In addition to damaging your entire circulatory system, smoking increases the risk of hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots. The deadly combination of some of these symptoms can lead to heart attack or even a stroke. It also reduces your lung capacity, which would make it harder to get in the right amount of exercise to further reduce your risk of heart disease. For every year that you remain a non-smoker, your risk for a heart attack drops and, just one month after quitting, you will no longer be short of breath after physical activity and your sense of taste and smell will come back.
Get Routine Checkups
With your busy schedule, it can be easy to forget some of the important things. A checkup with your doctor is not one of the things you want to forget. It’s crucial to schedule annual exams with your primary care physician. With the right tests, your doctor can tell you if you have any of the risk factors that could lead to heart disease. If you make note of the numbers they give you, such as your blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol, you can input them into your food diary apps to track your progress even further.
While it can be hard to give up your favorite foods, it’s easy to find a healthy substitute to satisfy your cravings. Are you a fan of French fries? For a healthier quick snack, try apple slices or carrot sticks. If you’re more into pizza, try swapping out some of the fatty toppings for vegetables and maybe even try a whole wheat crust. A healthy combination of both diet and exercise will ensure that you have the lowest chance of developing heart disease.
There’s no better time to start taking care of your heart than right now. Join us at Fitness Artist to start improving your heart health today.