American Heart Month: Lifestyle Changes for Preventing Heart Disease

February marks American Heart Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about heart health and preventing heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States.(1) While genetics play a role in cardiovascular health, lifestyle choices also significantly impact the health of our hearts. Fortunately, many lifestyle changes can help prevent heart disease and promote overall heart health.

Adopting a Heart-Healthy Diet

A nutritious and balanced diet is fundamental for heart health. Focusing on consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats while limiting consumption of saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars can improve your overall health by providing important nutrients that your body needs to function. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease. These heart-healthy foods include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, trout), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Changing your habits by incorporating these foods into your diet can be challenging but there are many resources to help you get started. The American Heart Association has a free online archive of recipes on their website to provide information and inspiration for adopting a heart-healthy diet.(2)

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Excess fat in the body puts added strain on the heart and increases the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. If you’re concerned about your fat-to-muscle mass ratio, talk with your doctor about steps that you can take to lose fat and increase muscle mass in your body. Aim for a healthy weight by adopting a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity. Even modest reductions in body fat can have significant benefits for heart health.

Regular Exercise

Physical activity is vital for maintaining cardiovascular health. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. Activities can include walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, or playing sports. Additionally, adults should aim for at least 2 days of muscle-strengthening activity every week.(3) Physical activities that strengthen your muscles can include lifting weights, working with resistance bands, heavy gardening and strength-focused yoga and pilates.(4) Find aerobic activities you enjoy, and make them a regular part of your routine to improve the functionality of your heart and overall health. 

Manage Stress & Mental Health

Chronic stress can have a negative impact on heart health by increasing blood pressure and contributing to unhealthy behaviors such as overeating or smoking. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or spending time in nature. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, and don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional if needed.

Quit Smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease and can damage blood vessels, reduce oxygen flow to the heart, and increase the risk of blood clots. If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your heart and overall health. To increase your chances of successfully quitting smoking, seek support from healthcare professionals, quit lines, or smoking cessation programs in your area. You can also ask for help and support from friends and family, who can help hold you accountable and offer encouragement along the way.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

While moderate alcohol consumption may have some heart-healthy benefits, excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia and other cardiovascular problems.(5) If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation – up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Get Regular Check-Ups

Regular medical check-ups are essential for monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and other risk factors for heart disease. Work with your primary care physician to develop a personalized plan for maintaining heart health and addressing any concerns or risk factors.

American Heart Month serves as a reminder that small changes in lifestyle can make a big difference in preventing heart disease and promoting overall heart health. At Premier Medical Group, heart health is a priority not only this month but every month of the year. Premier’s Cardiology Division offers personalized care and treatment for a variety of heart conditions. Call today to schedule your consultation at 845-565-4400.