Experts make it sound like protecting your heart from heart disease should be easy, but the truth is the “simple steps” they recommend can feel overwhelming if you haven’t already incorporated these habits into your daily life. Read on for tips about how to protect your heart from cardiac disease and how you can get the support you need to boost your heart health.
Heart Disease Facts in the time of COVID-19
Because February is National Heart Health month, you’re probably hearing a lot about cardiac health and why it matters. I urge you not to tune this information out. It’s likely you know someone—a loved one, a friend, a neighbor, or a colleague—who has suffered a heart attack or a stroke. You yourself may be at risk and not even realize it.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. In fact, one in four deaths is related to heart disease. And it’s further aggravated by COVID-19. If you have an underlying heart condition, please be extra careful about protecting yourself from the virus. Studies find that people with underlying health conditions are at higher risk of suffering from more severe symptoms and long-term complications if they catch the virus.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
Each year, the AHA in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health publishes a peer-reviewed report with the most up-to-date statistics and risks for heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular risk factors. In it, the organizations outline Life’s Simple 7, which are seven approaches to keeping your heart healthy.
1) Eat a heart healthy diet
Well Life Tip: Opt for eating more vegetables and choose unprocessed foods which are lower in sodium. Foods rich in Omega-3s like fish may be particularly beneficial to lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation. Aim for two servings of fish per week. Check out this Bourbon Basted Salmon recipe for a delicious, heart-healthy option!
2) Maintain a healthy weight
Well Life Tip: Check with your doctor to find out what a healthy weight is for you. If you want help learning how to cook delicious meals that help you reach your weight loss goal without feeling deprived, check out my Well Life Lean In program, which also includes a la cart options like a grocery store tour and a cooking demo.
3) Exercise regularly
Well Life Tip: Experts recommend getting at least 20 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each day. If you aren’t sure where to begin, try a low-impact exercise like a brisk walk. Ask a friend to join you, which not only creates accountability and support, but is just more fun!
4) Don’t smoke
Well Life Tip: According to the AHA, smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increases your blood pressure and can cause build up of plaque in your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. If you’re still smoking, talk to your doctor about a smoking cessation program. Check out the American Lung Association’s website for more tips.
5) Keep blood pressure healthy
Well Life Tip: In addition to following the tips above, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake and incorporating stress management practices can help you maintain a healthy blood pressure. Try meditation and integrate relaxing activities into your day. Last summer, I shared a blog post with my favorite sugar scrub recipes and simple meditation practices that you can try any time of the year!
6) Learn about your cholesterol & blood sugar levels
Well Life Tip: High blood sugar levels can result in abnormal LDL (or bad) cholesterol levels. A high LDL level can lead to heart attack and stroke, not to mention brain fog, memory loss and mood problems. Follow a healthy diet and talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes you can make to lower your LDL. Incorporating Omega-3s into your diet can be vital toward lowering high cholesterol.
If you don’t like fish, seek foods like walnuts and almonds or dairy products fortified with DHA like eggs, yogurt or milk. Try Carol’s Granola and substitute walnuts for the pecans or mix a half cup of walnuts and a half cup of almonds to boost the Omega-3 content.
7) Know your risks for pre-diabetes
Well Life Tip: High blood sugar levels can also be a precursor for diabetes. Early signs of diabetes can be hunger, fatigue, frequent urination, excessive thirst, dry mouth, and blurred vision. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
To lower your risk for pre-diabetes, maintain a healthy weight and focus on getting regular exercise. If you’re struggling, please reach out. Many of my clients come to me with a doctor-prescribed plan that can feel overwhelming to implement. Through accountability and coaching support, I can help you achieve your goals!
Overwhelmed by The Simple 7?
These recommendations are likely not startling new information to many of you. I believe we’ve all heard one or more of these approaches to a healthy lifestyle at one time in our lives. And while they are titled “Life’s Simple 7,” they are not easy.
My hope is that you have been able to tackle one or two of these approaches without too much stress or strain. But in order to turn each one into life-long habits, we need to pick one and make it a daily practice for a few weeks. Once we have it down with 80% consistency, we can incorporate another one.
You Don’t Have to Go it Alone
- Has your doctor prescribed a certain diet for you to follow for heart health or diabetes?
- Do you need to lose a few pounds to reach a healthy weight?
- Have you been inactive for a while and need to get back to exercise slowly?
As your Health Coach, I offer a client-centered approach in which we work together to create life-long habits toward better health. We will discover what whole person health means to you and make sure you don’t feel deprived in the process.
Contact me and let’s get started for your sweet heart’s sake!