Fall In Love With Your Heart

February is a good month to fall in love – with your heart. It’s also National Heart Month, which makes it the perfect time to launch an action plan that gives your hard-working heart the tender loving care it deserves.

In the U.S., heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, killing more than 600,000 people each year. The good news is that heart disease can be prevented and controlled. Even in a short month’s time, you can do a lot to take better care of your heart:

Week 1: Scrutinize Labels. Unhealthy fats and cholesterol can clog arteries. Salt can raise blood pressure. Sugar can pack on pounds. To avoid these risks for heart disease, read nutrition labels when you’re grocery shopping.

Look for foods with unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and low percentages of sodium and sugar. Also, choose plenty of foods that come without nutrition labels: fresh fruits and vegetables. They are low in fat and sodium, and they contain fiber, which can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Learn how to read food labels.

Week 2: Get Moving. Like all muscles, your heart needs exercise. This week—and every week—aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking. Share your heart-healthy habit with a loved one—invite him or her to join you on a walk. Get more exercise tips.

Week 3: Know Your Numbers. If you don’t know your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, make an appointment this week with your doctor to have them checked. Having high blood pressure or too much LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) in your blood can put you at risk for heart disease. Download an interactive blood pressure guide.

Being overweight also makes heart disease more likely. Your physician can advise you on lifestyle changes or medicines to help you achieve heart-healthy numbers in all three areas.

Week 4: Make a Plan to Quit. Smoking harms the heart as well as the lungs. And not just yours, but those of your family and friends as well, since exposure to secondhand smoke can also trigger heart and lung problems for the people around you. So quitting is an act of love—not only for your heart but also for all the hearts that you care about. Get tips on quitting the habit.

Learn more about GRMC’s cardiac and vascular care.