Remember to Keep your Heart Healthy

by Blake Herzog

February is on our calendars as American Heart Month, so we couldn’t let it go by without offering a few nudges toward maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle for yourself and your family.

You’ve heard all these suggestions from multiple sources in the past, but here’s a chance to see them all in one place.

Know and control your numbers

The “know your numbers” rallying cry can include different figures depending on who you talk to. Most experts include four readings to track: blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting blood glucose and body mass index (BMI).

The factors that influence these numbers are complex, and you’ll want to talk to your health care provider about what they mean and how you can change any that you need to through medications and lifestyle changes.

Dig into your family history

Genetic as well as lifestyle factors can contribute to heart disease, so it’s important to know as much as you can about other family members who have developed it. Ask about any parents, grandparents and great-grandparents whose health history you don’t know much about — this is important for assessing your cancer risk as well.

Take particular note of men diagnosed with heart disease before age 45 and women before age 55, along with anyone known or suspected to have genetic mutations that lead to abnormally high cholesterol.

Eat well and move more

  • Diet — Prioritize eating more vegetables and fruit, using them to fill half your plate for as many meals as you can.

Choose minimally processed or whole foods low in cholesterol and sugar, particularly added sugar. Consume high-fiber foods including beans and whole grains and beneficial fats like those found in olive oil and fatty fish but keep their calorie content in mind.

  • Exercise — Find physical activities you enjoy and commit to participating in them at least four to five days out of the week. These should include cardio activities that elevate your heart rate for a sustained period and strength training by lifting weights or through bodyweight exercises.