February is American Heart Month and a great time for Americans to focus on improving cardiovascular health for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Approximately 655,000 Americans die from heart disease every year with related healthcare costs reaching over $219 billion annually. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease and it affects around 12 million American adults. Heart attacks are also very frequent in the U.S with over 800,000 Americans a year going through the experience.
There are certain groups of Americans that are at a higher risk for heart diseases, such as those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking habits.
Lifestyle choices and medical conditions also increase the risk for heart disease. These include:
- Bad diet
- Lack of activity
- Excessive alcohol use
Taking Charge of Heart Health
Thankfully, there are many things we can do as individuals to protect our hearts and keep them healthy for years to come. The way we live impacts our hearts in many different ways.
Heart-healthy foods help our organs function with ease, while cardiovascular activities help make our hearts stronger. Even stress-reducing activities such as meditation can have a big impact on overall heart health.
We wanted to shed some light on some lifestyle changes that can have a significant impact on boosting heart health. Keep reading to learn more about great ways to keep your heart in excellent shape for years to come!
Focus on Eating Heart-Healthy Foods
Did you know that certain foods are really good for your heart? These ‘heart-healthy’ foods can make a positive impact on our blood pressure levels, triglycerides, cholesterol, and inflammation. All of these are risk factors for heart disease so it’s important to find ways to keep them in a healthy range.
Here are some heart-friendly foods you can incorporate into your diet to reduce your risk of heart disease:
- Leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens)
- Whole grains (oats, quinoa, barley)
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)
- Fatty fish & fish oil (salmon, sardines, tuna)
- Dark chocolate
- Seeds (chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds)
- Olive oil
Work on Lowering Your Stress Levels
Sometimes people are surprised to learn that there is a connection between stress and heart health. Too much stress can cause our bodies to release adrenaline which makes our hearts beat faster and raises blood pressure levels. If we remain at high-stress levels for long periods of time, our hearts can stay in high gear for multiple days or even weeks!
Many situations can cause us to feel stressed in our lives. Common sources for Americans include workplace, financial, and caregiver stress. Thankfully, there are lots of ways in which we can combat stress and reduce the impact it has on our cardiovascular health.
Here are some great ways to lower your stress levels:
- Have a consistent, healthy sleep schedule
- Try to meditate on a regular basis
- Stay active in ways you enjoy
- Make time to take a relaxing bath
- Improve your time-management skills
- Don’t let stress fester. Try to resolve stressful situations
- Make it a point to have fun sometimes
Take Good Care of Your Teeth
Although dental health may only seem important for strong teeth, it actually has a big impact on our entire bodies, including our hearts. In fact, people with periodontal (gum) disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease.
This is because bacteria that form due to gum disease can quickly move into our bloodstream and start damaging other parts of our bodies. Specifically, this bacteria can cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels that can increase our risk of heart disease and stroke.
For these reasons, it is essential to ensure our dental health is as good as possible. Flossing and brushing our teeth every day can prevent gum disease, heart disease, and many other problems from forming.
As you can see, there are so many great ways to lower our risk of developing heart disease. Start by integrating heart-healthy foods into your diet on a regular basis.
Stress is a normal part of life, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do things to lower its negative impact on our bodies. Try to engage in stress-relieving activities often and establish a healthy sleep routine. Additionally, make sure your dental health is in excellent shape to prevent increasing your risk for heart disease.
Finally, make sure to schedule an annual physical with your doctor to detect potential heart problems, establish treatment plans, and monitor progress as your health improves.