The heart is an amazing part of the human body—it’s a muscle that allows blood to move throughout your body, transporting nutrients and oxygen where you need it. Every beat is a message that says, you’re alive and doing fine!
Which is why taking care of your heart health is a crucial part of your whole health.
Why is Heart Health Important?
Your heart does a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to keeping your body working at its best. But when the heart struggles to do its job, a person’s overall health is seriously affected.
Sadly, heart disease is one of the most common diseases in the US and has remained one of the leading causes of death among Americans for roughly the past two decades.
Because heart disease is so common, it’s important to spread heart health awareness and to make sure that your heart is taken care of and maintained through healthy activities and eating habits.
But when doctors and health officials say “heart disease,” what exactly do they mean?
What is Heart Disease?
“Heart disease” refers to a variety of conditions that affect the heart, and can include coronary artery disease, issues with heart valves, or even heart failure itself. Many factors can contribute to the development of each issue, but it’s even possible to be born with heart issues, or conditions that lead to heart disease.1
Here are just a few conditions that can lead to heart disease and heart failure:
- Coronary Artery Disease– A narrowing of coronary arteries that lead to the heart, usually caused by a buildup of cholesterol and fat deposits. This is sometimes referred to as Atherosclerosis.
- Heart Failure– Heart failure is a condition that occurs over time due to various circumstances. These can include diseases like Coronary Artery Disease, diseases of the heart valves, even things like high blood pressure, congenital heart diseases, and heart attacks can contribute over time to heart failure.
- Heart Attack – Also known as a myocardial infarction, this occurs when blood flow to the heart becomes blocked, and the heart can’t receive oxygen.
Despite the prevalence of heart disease, there’s good news: these conditions can be prevented through simple, healthy choices you can make every day.
Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy
With a few heart health tips and tricks, you can make maintaining your heart health a regular part of your day-to-day life.
The food you put into your body becomes the fuel for your overall well-being. And the best fuel for your heart is a diet full of fruit, veggies, whole grains, legumes, and lean protein like chicken or fish. Try to limit your sodium, trans-fat, and processed food intake to give your heart an even bigger boost.
For an extra loving dose of heart health, fill your plate with these nutritious foods:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Whole grains
- Omega-3 favorites like avocados, fatty fish, and flax seeds
- Olive oil
- Green tea
Your heart gets a workout when you do, making it stronger and more effective at keeping you healthy. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity.
Moderate-intensity activities include:
- Brisk walks (“Brisk” meaning 2.5 mph or faster),
- Biking at 10 mph or slower
Vigorous activities include:
- Biking faster than 10 mph
- Swimming laps
- Heavy yard work
You can even set reminders to get up and move every 20 minutes or so if you sit for long periods of time at work or home. It’s important to remember that the little things add up when it comes to taking care of your heart.
Cutting Back on Alcohol and Smoking
Some of the best ways to keep your heart healthy are to cut down on drinking and smoking.
- It’s estimated that at least one-third of coronary heart disease deaths are linked to smoke or secondhand smoke.
- While sharing a drink with friends and at dinner can definitely be enjoyable, heavy, excessive drinking may seriously hinder your heart’s long term health. Excessive drinking has been proven to lead to high blood pressure, contribute to heart failure, and even disorders like cardiomyopathy which affects the heart muscle.
Deciding to quit smoking or limit your drinking might be one of the most effective ways you keep your heart strong for your whole life.
Heart Health Awareness Month
Since 1964, February has been designated as Heart Awareness Month, or Heart Health Awareness Month. The first Friday of this month is traditionally Wear Red Day to spread heart health awareness, and is linked to the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women Day. This day seeks to bring special awareness to the symptoms of heart attacks in women, which can be different from those in men and so all the more important to learn how to recognize.
Heart Health Awareness Month is a perfect time to make serious lifestyle changes in order to take care of your health, whether that be exercising more or eating more vegetables.
Getting to the Heart of Health with VOASW
Taking care of your heart will help you do the things you love for the long run. If you need help cutting down on practices like drinking or smoking, remember that it’s easier to make these changes if you have someone supporting you, and that Volunteers of America Southwest is always willing to lend a hand.
Center for Disease Control. Heart Disease Facts https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
New York State Department of Health. Types of Cardiovascular Disease https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/cardiovascular/heart_disease/types_of_cv
Boone Hospital Center. Common Types of Heart Disease https://www.boone.org/Our-Services/Cardiology-Cardiothoracic-Services/Common-Types-of-Heart-Disease
American Heart Association. Check for the Heart-Check Mark Infographic. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/heart-check-foods/check-for-the-heart-check-mark-infographic
American Heart Association. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
American Heart Association. How Smoking and Nicotine Damage Your Body https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking-tobacco/how-smoking-and-nicotine-damage-your-body
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Alcohol and Heart Health: Separating Fact from Fiction https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/alcohol-and-heart-health-separating-fact-from-fiction
Healthline. 15 Incredibly Heart-Healthy Foods. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/heart-healthy-foods#TOC_TITLE_HDR_12