February is American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month, reminding us to take action to protect our heart health. While we are at home, it is now more important than ever to take care of ourselves by staying active and eating healthy. When we protect our hearts, we care for our cardiovascular health.
Cardiovascular disease leads to heart disease and stroke, leading causes of death in Washington state and the nation. It may have been a while since you’ve been seen, but your health care provider wants to hear from you! They can help you know your risk for heart attack and stroke, as well as make a plan to lower your risk. Your provider may recommend tests to know where you stand and, based on the “big picture” of your test results, give you tailored recommendations.
People of any age can take action to protect their heart and brain from cardiovascular disease. Read on to learn more about steps we can all take to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
Created by the Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Prevention unit at the Washington State Department of Health, the Great 8 provides eight behaviors to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease.
Like most everything else, being physically active is a bit different right now. It might take more effort, but the rewards of being physically active are essential for every aspect of our health. Any amount is beneficial. Most people find that they can slowly increase their activity until they average 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. It doesn’t have to be big blocks of time; 10 minutes at a time is fine.
Try one of these activities:
- Ride a bicycle (stationary or outside)
- Play, walk or run outside with kids and members of your household
- Build your strength at home by using body weight exercises. You can also lift weights or household objects, like water bottles.
- Follow along with online yoga or workout videos and DVD’s
- Play active video games
- Use the Department of Health trails guide to find a trail and go hiking
Eating healthy is another simple step to take to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Make healthy choices such as switching water for sugary drinks and increasing your fruit and vegetable servings.
Other healthy eating tips:
- Buy fresh produce
- Eat balanced meals
- Eat more fruit and vegetables
- Eat more fiber
- Eat more leafy greens
- Drink plenty of water
For a reliable source of healthy food, look into our local community-supported agriculture and farms. Most are beginning their spring sign-ups, and for some, the hospital is a weekly pick-up spot.
Emotional and spiritual health is also key to good cardiovascular health. By practicing wellness, you can reduce stress and improve your mental state. While social distancing, these steps may be more challenging but are as important as ever.
- Find balance and reduce stress
- Exercise for your emotional health, not just your physical fitness
- Get enough sleep
- Practice relaxation, meditation, or prayer
- Dance (even if it’s on your own in your living room)
- Have fun with a group or with family (even if it’s on Zoom)
- Do meaningful activities with a group (online until we can gather more in person)
For more wellness support, visit the American Heart Association’s Healthy Lifestyle page.
Know these 3 – Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar, and Cholesterol
We know that to keep our vehicles maintained and running smoothly, we need to check under the hood regularly. Our cardiovascular system also requires regular checkups. Keeping a pulse on our blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels are vital to avoiding serious problems and detecting issues before they stop us in our tracks.
If it’s been a while since you were at a health care provider’s office, check-in with your provider to see about getting these levels checked. Another great way to keep track of your blood pressure is to use a validated home blood pressure monitor. For more info on accurately measuring your blood pressure from home, visit the Cardiovascular Connection.
Steer Clear of Smoking/Vaping
Smoking, vaping and using tobacco in any form take a toll on our health. Marijuana use can pose issues too. While most people focus on the impact of smoking and vaping on our lungs, our cardiovascular system can also be hurt by tobacco and marijuana. If you’ve quit tobacco or vaping – pat yourself on the back for making this commitment to your health. If you are curious about support for quitting, use one of the following resources:
Follow your Doctor’s Recommendations
Some have limited your use of health care resources during the pandemic, but our providers still want to see you for preventive health and regular health maintenance. Are there prescriptions you’ve put off refilling? Preventive care you’ve put off scheduling? Sometimes a telehealth check-in may work to catch up on and answer any questions you have. Make the call, and we can help you decide what is right for you.