BE MINE is a common message found on candy hearts at ValentineÂ™s, but itÂ™s not the most important message to heed during FebruaryÂ™s Healthy Heart Month. That message is Take Care of Your Heart.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States. According to the CDC, almost 700,000 people die of heart disease in the United States each yearÂ”about 29 percent of all U.S. deaths.
Achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can address many of the factors that lead to heart disease. To help guide the way, the personal health coaches at Gordian Health Solutions, Inc., who help individuals choose healthier behaviors every day of the year, share 10 vital cardiovascular health messages:
1) Brush up on history. Individuals with a strong history of heart disease in their families are more likely to develop it themselves. Find out whether heart disease runs in your family. If so, itÂ™s even more important for you to identify and address other risk factors you might have.
2) Know your numbers. Keeping tabs on a few sets of numbers can help you and your doctor find out how your risk factors measure up. Numbers to keep track of include your body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, waist circumference and cholesterol levels. If one or more of these numbers is off base, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes or medication.
3) Eat healthier foods. Strive for a heart-healthy diet thatÂ™s rich in fruits and vegetables. Choose lean sources of protein: fish, chicken, turkey. Opt for low-fat dairy products over the heavier ones, and incorporate whole grains into your meals. Other tips? Limiting salt intake can help with blood pressure control; increasing fiber in your diet can help to lower cholesterol; eating omega 3s (found in cold-water fish, green leafy vegetables, almonds and walnuts) can reduce inflammation in the body, including blood vessels, and thin the blood.
4) Move. Engaging in regular physical activity reaps benefit upon benefit for your body and mind. Walking is a great activity to pursue for heart health. Start slow and gradually progress, striving for 30 minutes of brisk walkingÂ”or any other type of cardiovascular exercise you enjoyÂ”five days a week. Scheduling your exercise appointments on a calendar keeps you on track and can give you a well-earned sense of accomplishment. (Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.)
5) Maintain a healthy body weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, as well as a number of other serious conditions. Work with your doctor or caregiver to determine an ideal body weight, and keep tabs on your pounds. DonÂ™t be overwhelmed if you have a lot to lose; even a modest weight loss can have positive effects and lower your risk factors.
6) Cut alcohol and tobacco. Try to limit your alcohol intake to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women. Stop smoking and try to avoid second-hand smoke. Of course, these steps are much easier said than done, but today there are numerous resources out there to make these changes less painful (e.g., nicotine patches and gum, support groups).
7) Keep stress low. Managing emotional stress improves your overall health and well-being. For instance, high stress and anxiety can cause a temporary increase in high blood pressureÂ“or lead you to overeat, drink too much alcohol and smoke cigarettes. Just a few ideas for reducing stress: avoid bottling up your emotions; make a list of positive things in your life and refer to it often; place your favorite inspirational passage on the bathroom mirror where youÂ™ll see it daily; exercise on a regular basis; live on a budget to reduce financial stress; limit your exposure to negative influences.
8) Maintain a healthy mouth. Your mouth is a mirror to the inside. In other words, problems in the mouth can be a red flag for something larger going on inside your body. Make good oral health a habit: Brush and floss twice a day and visit the dentist twice a year for a cleaning and exam. Let your dentist know if heart disease runs in the family.
9) Be aware. Learn the warning signs of a heart in trouble, and donÂ™t ignore them. If you experience any of the following, seek medical care immediately: chest pain and/or pressure that may or may not radiate down one or both arms, jaw or shoulders; numbness; tingling in the arms; sweating; dizziness; feeling faint; intense feelings of anxiety.
10) Get support. If your doctor suggests major lifestyle changes to reduce your risk factors, be sure to ask for help and to solicit support from family and friends. Reach out to people who have had to make similar changes. A little encouragement here and there can go a long way.
About Gordian Health Solutions, Inc.
Gordian Health Solutions is the nationÂ™s leading personal health coaching company. Gordian is pioneering the next generation of individualized, interactive and integrated health solutions to reduce the demand and cost of healthcare and encourage healthier lifestyles. Gordian delivers personalized one-on-one health coaching, individually tailored websites and other media to help individuals achieve and maintain healthy lifestyles and to address chronic conditions. Gordian pioneered the health coaching industry and, with its 12 years of innovative industry leadership, is poised to advance a culture of wellness that will positively impact lives for years to come. For more information about Gordian, visit www.gordian-health.com.
Note to editors: Permission granted to reproduce with attribution. Written by Gordian Health SolutionsÂ™ Health Coaches Charlsie Estes, RN, BSN; Lisa Kanner, MA; and Megan Neumann, MS, RD, LDN, Feb. 2009.