February is American Heath Month. Cardiovascular diseases – including congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke – remain the leading cause of death in the world; yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost a third of cardiac-related deaths are preventable. While some risk factors, such as age and heredity are beyond our control, there are numerous things we can do create a heart-healthy lifestyle and reduce our risk of a cardiovascular event. First, if you smoke, quit. According to the National Institutes for Health, doing so may reduce your risk by 50 percent. Here are some additional ways you can increase your heart health.
Exercise can be difficult to manage as we get older, but it’s so essential to a healthy body and heart. Brainstorm with your doctor ways in which you can be physically active. Alden’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program can help you increase your physical activity, so you can exercise safely and with confidence. Exercise can also reduce cholesterol, another risk factor. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals perform at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise.
You are what you eat
Changing your diet can seem like a daunting task, especially when your favorite foods seem to always be on the “I can’t have that” list. Start slowly, with some simple steps – such as replacing a few less healthy items and replacing them with heart-healthy choices. For instance, if you really enjoy chocolate, try dark chocolate. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. If you love your side dishes, try making a cauliflower mash with olive oil instead of mashed potatoes with cream and butter. Instead of salt, try spices, herbs or lemon juice. Love your morning toast? Aim for whole grains with lots of fiber. And avoid heart-clogging trans fats.
Play it cool
Unsurprisingly, stress can be a major player in your heart health. Think about it like rush hour traffic in your body. Stress increases your blood pressure (a lot of people trying to get somewhere all at once) and can contribute to blockages (like an accident in the middle lane) in your veins that force your heart to work that much harder. Keeping a positive attitude is also a great way to ease strain on your heart. The Harvard School of Public discovered that people who express optimism and are generally positive have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Get more sleep
Sleep deprivation can increase your risk in a number of ways. First, it can lead to weight gain. A lack of sleep can hinder the ability of the frontal lobe of your brain – which governs decision-making and impulse control – to perform at its best. Additionally, when you’re tired, the brain starts seeking out something to make it feel better, making it harder to resist food cravings. A South Korean study discovered that adults who sleep five or fewer hours a day have 50 percent more calcium in their coronary arteries than those who slept seven hours day. Calcium buildup is a warning sign for potential heart disease.
Cardiac rehabilitation can help
According to the American Heart Association, cardiac rehabilitation can reduce mortality rates, ease symptoms, and increase overall health and well-being. Yet, cardiac rehab is an underutilized tool in recouping or maintaining heart health.
Alden’s exclusive cardiac rehabilitation program, CardioPro™, is a customized program of exercise and education, designed to help you recover after a heart attack, surgery, or other forms of heart disease. You’ll learn how to:
- Increase your physical activity and exercise safely
- Follow a heart-healthy diet
- Reduce your risk for future heart problems
- Improve your overall health and well-being
The goals of cardiac rehabilitation are to help you regain strength, prevent your condition from worsening and reduce your risk of future heart problems – and get you home as quickly and safely as possible so you can resume living life to its fullest.