This American Heart Month, we’d like to help you get started on your journey toward a healthier heart. It’s never too late to start, and even small steps can add up to big changes. So, what can we do to get started?
Physical activity can sound like a punishment, but it doesn’t have to be. You can choose simple activities you really enjoy like hiking or biking — or find ways to add more movement to things you’re doing anyway. Park at a faraway spot at the supermarket and increase your steps! And, believe it or not, gardening burns 300 calories per hour! Anytime you’re moving your body, you’re protecting your heart.
Healthy eating is key to a healthy heart, but easier said than done, right? And you’re probably being bombarded with confusing information from all over the internet. Well, let’s keep it simple and focus on just 4 key things for heart health: sodium (salt), sugar, fat, and fiber.
- Salt: When you eat too much sodium (salt), your body pulls more water into your bloodstream, and this could cause your blood pressure to go up. And high blood pressure raises your risk for heart attack and stroke — so cutting back on sodium (salt) is a big win for your heart. The #1 source of sodium in American diets? Bread! So cutting back on bread is a small step you can take to make a big impact on your heart health!
- Skip the Sugar: Would you sit down and eat 10 teaspoons of sugar with your lunch? No? Well, there’s about that much in a single can of soda. Skipping the soda is a great way to cut back. Small steps
- Choose Healthy Fats: Start by making some heart-healthy swaps: Swap out mashed avocado for mayo on your next sandwich or switch out ground turkey for ground beef for your next burger
- Eat More Fiber: Here’s 1 sure way to boost fiber: fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. And to save time and money, buy frozen or canned — just make sure they’re low in sodium.
We all know that stress can tie your stomach up in knots or give you a headache, but did you know that stress can mess with your heart health? In stressful situations, your body releases adrenaline — and that makes your heart rate speed up and your blood pressure rise. When you’re dealing with long-term stress, your body stays in this “fight-or-flight” mode all the time. And that can lead to high blood pressure and a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
Here’s an exercise you can do to feel calmer right away:
Take a few deep breaths. Mindful, deep breathing can trigger your body’s relaxation response — and you can do it anywhere. Try it right now:
- Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose
- Keep breathing in until your belly puffs out
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth
- Repeat until you’ve calmed down
To learn more about heart health, high blood pressure, and how to manage it, click here.