5 Steps to a Healthy Heart

It’s Valentine’s Day!  While we are celebrating with our loved ones on this special day, let’s also think of ways to keep our hearts strong and healthy.

One of the leading causes of death in Birmingham is diseases of the heart. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a gradual process of inadequate circulation that accounts for more deaths annually than any other disease or group of diseases.

Compared to other nearby mid-sized cities like Birmingham, heart diseases lead in Nashville, Tenn. And in Charlotte, N.C, cancer leads with heart diseases following.

That doesn’t solely apply to our southern corner of the U.S. The leading cause of death throughout the country is heart related diseases.

What does that mean for us, then? Whether heart diseases run in your family or poor health conditions play a factor, here are ways to keep a healthy heart and change that statistic.

  1. Eat healthy fats, not trans fats
    What’s the difference? We need fats in our diets, but the ones we should steer away from are trans fats. They are known to increase your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke over a lifetime because trans fats clog your arteries and raise cholesterol levels. Trans fats can be found in packaged baked goods, snack foods and fast foods. Make it a point to avoid eating these types of foods and substitute with healthier alternatives.
  1. Get Active
    No matter what your weight or what shape you’re in, staying active can help keep a heart healthy. 30 minutes of exercise a day is recommended for most adults. Maybe it’s hard to find time in the day to exercise. An example of getting in those 30 minutes can be taking a 10-minute walk in the morning, during lunch time, and in the evening. There’s always time to get it in.

  1. Get enough sleep
    Sleep is essential for our body’s recovery. If you don’t sleep enough, you can be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease no matter how old you are. A healthy amount of sleep at night consists of seven to eight hours.
  1. Avoid smoking and second hand smoke
    Health risks from smoking are hard to ignore. Smoking and contact with second hand smoke can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also make it harder to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. If you do smoke, quitting isn’t easy, so it’s important to have a plan. Create the plan and stick to it.
  1. Choose better eating habits
    Instead of automatically getting rid of all of the unhealthy junk foods you eat. Start off with small goals. For example, drink more water and cut out sodas this week, and next week cut out chips. Create a food diary to keep track of what you’re eating and keep you motivated on the way. As I always say, if you want the cookie, have it. Just not half the box.

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For more information visit heart.org.