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Make strides to improve your heart health during American Heart Month

February 14, 2020 posted by Vidant Health News

February is American Heart Month and now is the time to make the small changes in your life that can improve heart health and help you live a healthier life.

Despite incredible improvements in our ability to fight heart disease in health care, it is still the leading cause of death in the United States. 

Studies show that we are better at kicking bad habits and replacing them with healthier choices when we do things together. Tackle these challenges with a friend, family, neighbor or colleague and get on the path to healthier living.

With Vidant Heart & Vascular Care, you’re not alone in your effort to improve your heart health as we strive to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. Here are 10 things you can do that can lead to a healthier life.

1. Talk with your doctor

  • Have a regular conversation about your risk and your family history of heart disease.
  • Try to avoid taking advice form magazines, social media and the internet.

2. Get Active

  • Regular activity is good for everyone and is anything that gets your body moving.
  • The goal is 150 minutes of activity per week.
  • If you haven't been active, start with only a few minutes at a time and slowly add more time.

3. Evaluate Your Diet

  • Eating for your heart health doesn't mean your choices are limited.
  • Figure out what you're actually eating
  • Cook the majority of your meals at home.
  • Learn how to read food labels.
  • Choose from a variety of colorful veggies, fiber rich whole grains and lean meats, poultry and fish.

4. Maintain or Achieve a Healthy Weight

  • A weight loss of just 5-10 percent can make a positive impact on your health. The most effective way to achieve this is through making changes to your food choices and reducing portion sizes.
  • Pick one unhealthy food habit at a time and change it.
  • Increase both your physical activity and your cardiovascular exercise.

5. Avoid Tobacco

  • Smoking is the single largest preventable risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
  • It is never too late to stop smoking.
  • Increase your success by making a plan and anticipate the road blocks.

6. Know and Control Your Cholesterol

  • Controlling your cholesterol through lifestyle changes can prevent blockages from forming in the arteries of your heart.
  • These changes can include: Increased activity, heart healthy food choices and medications, when needed.

7. Manage Your Blood Pressure

  • When your blood pressure is high, your heart is on overdrive.
  • The blood flowing through your arteries is so forceful that it causes small tears in the walls of your arteries.
  • This causes plaque and blood clots to form.
  • Over time, this can weaken and damage your heart, kidneys and other parts of your body.
  • Work with your doctor to achieve a healthy blood pressure for you.

8. Reduce Blood Sugar

  • If fasting blood sugar is under 100 then it is in the healthy range, otherwise you may have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
  • Our bodies turn the foods that we eat into glucose (blood sugar) which our cells use for energy. If we have too much glucose our insulin becomes resistant which leads to diabetes.
  • Increasing intake of non-starchy vegetables, whole fruits and higher fiber grains (3 grams or more per serving) can help you maintain steady glucose levels.
  • Diabetes, even when blood sugars are under control greatly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Adopting heart healthy habits can help control your blood sugar.

9. Know the Signs and Symptoms

  • Learn the early heart attack signs and symptoms so you or someone you love can seek help by calling 911 as soon as possible
  • Common signs and symptoms include: Crushing, squeezing, burning pain or fullness in center of chest, shortness of breath, cold and clammy skin, gray pallor
  • Women tend to have more subtle symptoms: Breathlessness; symptoms that are flu-like; Weakness, unexplained fatigue, dizziness; pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back; and anxiety.

10. Make a Plan

  • Taking action starts with a plan!
  • Make it a SMART plan:
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Action Oriented
    • Realistic
    • Time-based

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