Take Care of Your Heart!

February is American Heart Month, which is a perfect time to focus on your cardiovascular health. This is a time to raise awareness about heart disease. By adapting a healthy lifestyle, you can lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke.

The American Heart Association has listed smoking, nutrition, physical inactivity, being overweight, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus as the largest risk factors for heart disease, stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Do you ever say “I love you with all my heart” to someone? Why not show them by taking care of your heart! Start today by taking steps to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Eat healthy and strive for heart healthy foods. Always include vegetables, fruits, low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, whole grains, beans or other legumes, healthy fasts such as olive oil and avocado, lean meats and fish.
Maintain your weight and keep off those extra pounds. When you carry extra weight, especially around the middle, you increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
Get moving and stay active. Choosing the healthy habit of exercise can help prevent heart disease. Regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Exercise is good for your heart!
Quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco. Cigarette smoke can raise your blood pressure and heart rate, because it lowers the oxygen in the blood. Even non-smokers need to stay away from second hand smoke.
Reduce your stress and boost your heart health. Everyone deals with stress from time to time; however, too much stress can affect our blood pressure and other risk factors that can lead to heart disease. You can manage your stress by exercising, mindfulness, yoga and meditation.
Strive for adequate sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, you increase your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression. Try setting a sleep schedule and adhering to the plan. For instance, try going to bed and waking at the same time every day. 


By Debra Staton, Wellness Coordinator for the Arkansas Health Network