February is Heart Health Month. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. The USVI Department of Health encourages the community to take charge of your health by maintaining a healthy heart. Here are a few tips to help you do so:
To help prevent heart disease, you can:
- Eat healthy.
- Get active.
- Stay at a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
- Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Manage stress.
Heart Attack Prevention:
It’s never too late to take steps to prevent a heart attack — even if you’ve already had one. Here are ways to prevent a heart attack.
- Taking medications can reduce your risk of a subsequent heart attack and help your damaged heart function better. Continue to take what your doctor prescribes, and ask your doctor how often you need to be monitored.
- Lifestyle factors. You know the drill: Maintain a healthy weight with a heart-healthy diet, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, manage stress and control conditions that can lead to heart attack, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
10 Ways to Take Charge of Your Heart Health
- Schedule a Yearly Checkup
Your heart is in your hands. Each year on your birthday, schedule a checkup to have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked, and ask your doctor to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Be sure to follow your healthcare professional’s recommendations, including taking prescribed medications as directed.
- Get Physical
Step, march or jog in place for at least 15 minutes a day while watching your favorite TV shows. Increase your activity by five minutes each week until you’re getting a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week.
If exercise and diet do not get you to your goal, ask your doctor about adding medication.
Keep your numbers in check: Get Physical
- Drink More Water
Take a water bottle with you wherever you go. It’ll keep you hydrated and the bottle’s weight will strengthen your arms.
- Eat Healthy
Keep packages of unhealthy food hidden. Put raw veggies and fruits in front in the refrigerator and healthy snacks in the front of the pantry, so that’s what you see first. If you grab healthy foods for a minimum of 21 times, healthy choices will become a habit.
- Control Cholesterol
Eating foods high in saturated fat, trans fat or cholesterol can lead to high blood cholesterol. To help keep your cholesterol levels down, eat foods low in saturated fat and trans fat, such as lean chicken or turkey (roasted or baked, with skin removed), fruits and veggies, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and whole grains.
Look for cookbooks that focus on heart health in your local bookstore and check out the American Heart Association’s recipe section at www.heart.org.
- Cut Down on Salt
To help lower high blood pressure, watch your salt intake. It may be disguised in food labels as sodium alginate, sodium sulfite, sodium caseinate, disodium phosphate, sodium benzoate, sodium hydroxide, monosodium glutamate (MSG), or sodium citrate.
- Quit Smoking
Try this four-step way to kick your habit:
- On Day 1, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke by half
- On Day 3, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke in half again
- And on Day 5, cut your smoking in half again
- On your Quit Day… quit!
Keep your numbers in check: Quitting Smoking
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. To achieve steady, painless weight loss, take it easy. Each day, if you eat 200-300 calories less than you would normally consume, and exercise at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week, you’ll get closer to your goal and be able to achieve weight loss that’s steady and painless.
- Stay Positive
If you get off your exercise schedule, have a cigarette, or eat a fattening meal, immediately get back on track toward re-establishing a healthy lifestyle.
- Give Yourself Credit
To maintain momentum with exercising, losing weight, or quitting smoking, keep track of your achievements and reward yourself by doing something you enjoy.