February is American Heart Month and if you haven’t thought about your heart health in a while, this month is the perfect time. The first American Heart Month was in the 1960s when more than half the deaths in the country were caused by cardiovascular disease. Today, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the country. But there are five simple ways you can protect your heart!
Eat Smart: Changing your diet is one of the best ways to improve your heart health. But it’s easier said than done. Eat smart by making smaller changes, like turning one dinner a week into a vegetarian meal. That saves calories and total fat. Make healthy substitutions like low-fat yogurt in recipes that call for high-fat cream. Sit down for a healthy family dinner, which will build healthy eating habits over time.
Add Color: The best way to get a variety of nutrients and vitamins is by eating lots of different fruits and vegetables. If it’s hard to get your family to eat their vegetables, sneak them in by replacing chips with thinly-cut sweet potatoes in your favorite nacho recipe. Canned fruits and vegetables are a great way to buy them on the cheap. But make sure to read labels before you buy to stay away from added sugar or salt. Buy cans that are packed in their own juice or water and rinse them well before you cook with them.
Move More: Diet is a big piece of a heart healthy lifestyle. Exercise is another piece of the puzzle. Getting your heart pumping and your body moving is a free and easy way to keep your heart in its best shape. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of physical activity. It sounds like a lot, but break it down and that’s just a 30-minute walk, five days a week. Break it up even more and go for a 15-minute walk every day at lunch. It all adds up! If you’re just starting out on your exercise routine, don’t get discouraged. Add a few more minutes to your workout each day and you’ll be a heart health champ in no time.
Be Well: Diet and exercise are critical to your health, but so is your overall wellness. If you’re stressed out, not sleeping or not taking enough “you time”, your heart pays the price. Be well by making sure you are getting enough sleep. You can get a better night of sleep by working out that day, turning off your phone at night and staying away from caffeine. If you’re stressed, find what relieves it for you. It might be mediation, yoga or even a high-intensity workout class. Whatever relieves your anxiety, is what’s right for you.
Know Your Numbers: A final, easy way to protect your heart is to learn more about it. Find out what your blood pressure is. The American Heart Association recently lowered its guidelines on high blood pressure, so more Americans are now considered to have elevated blood pressure. The good news is if you’re one of those people, you can control your blood pressure by making these four lifestyle changes.
The WCA Group Health Trust was created when county officials joined together to create an employee benefit program that would meet the unique needs of local governments. Today, their founding principles still remain at the core. WCA Group Health Trust is governed by officials from participating units of government and school districts, making the organization more responsive to local healthcare needs.
Written by Krystal Webb
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