5 Things You Can Be Doing Right Now to Take Care of Your Heart

5 Things You Can Be Doing Right Now to Take Care of Your Heart

Today kicks off National Heart Health Awareness Month, in fact, today is the 50th anniversary of this program.  Plus Friday is Go Red for Women to specifically raise awareness for women's heart health.

(So don't forget to throw on something red in the morning.) Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and the American Heart Association is working to change that.  Here are five simple things you can be doing to change your heart health this February.

heart

Image: Dorota via Flickr

Bad Habits

Those cigarettes you're still smoking?  Those extra glasses of wine or bottles of beer?  Those bad habits affect your heart in a major way.

We've known for a long time how cigarettes negatively affect the heart, but research has shown that smokers can undo the damage within 8 - 15 years by stopping smoking now.  On the flip side, smoking has been shown to shave off around that many years from your life.  So use the American Heart Association's advice on how to stop smoking immediately.

Alcohol can cause an enlargement of the heart.  Regardless, the unnecessary calories in drinks also affect weight gain which can affect heart health.  So keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum.

Go to Sleep

Getting enough sleep goes a long way in helping the heart.  Not only does sleep give your body time to repair itself overnight, but not getting enough sleep leads to weight gain, which can affect the heart.  The New York Times reported on a study that found that "light sleepers ended up eating far more than those who got nine hours of sleep, and by the end of the first week the sleep-deprived subjects had gained an average of about two pounds."  So set down your work and turn off the television early tonight and get some rest.

Reduce Your Stress

Stress releases adrenaline which raises your blood pressure, affecting your heart.  Make sure you build stress relievers into your day.  Go on a walk, do 15 minutes of yoga in your office using an app, take up knitting, or do a little deep breathing.  The American Heart Association has compiled a list of resources to help you manage stress.

Eat Well

The DASH-diet is considered one of the healthiest ways to eat, and this simple, heart-healthy diet can put you on the road to heart wellness.  Reducing your salt intake, avoiding processed foods, and eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Get Moving

Sitting in front of a computer is not doing your heart any favours.  Take breaks and get up to move.  The American Heart Association recommends "doing aerobic exercise — using large muscles of the legs and arms — on most days of the week for 30 to 60 minutes helps your heart work more efficiently. Physical activities to improve your strength, flexibility and balance help you stay agile as you age."  You don't need to go to a gym or buy fancy equipment to get in a workout.  In fact, everything you need just may be in your kitchen.

What are you doing to help your heart this February?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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