February 25, 2020

We’re about a month or so into our New Year’s resolutions, and with any luck, you’re starting to make some significant progress. However, something that’s equally important is making sure that we’re here to celebrate/try plenty more of them in the future. A major element in the overall road to longevity is heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and most ethnic groups in the U.S and about half of all Americans have one of the several key risk factors for heart issues, including:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

February marks American Heart Month, so it’s the perfect time to start talking about some of the general habits you can make in your daily life to improve your heart health. Here are some key examples:

Be careful with your fat intake: Fats are a crucial part of the general diet, saturated, polyunsaturated, and unsaturated included. However, that doesn’t include all fats, like trans fats. Trans fats can contribute to an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks by clogging your arteries and raising your levels of LDL cholesterol. Trans fats are most commonly found in packaged baked items, snacks, margarine, and fried foods. Be sure to read the nutrition labels when shopping and look out for 0% trans fat and no partially hydrogenated oils.

Minding your portions: While cutting down on trans fats and eating more vegetables is key for heart health, you want to make sure that you watch how much you eat as well. Getting seconds and eating until you’re stuffed generally means more calorie intake than you need, especially when eating out. 

Ideally, you want to use smaller plates and bowls to keep your portions under control. It’s also a good idea to focus on more significant portions of foods that are lower in calories but higher in nutrients. Equally important is tracking how many servings you eat. This can be difficult to do, and you may need to adjust how much you usually eat. Consider using measuring cups or food scales until you have a better idea of what you need. Another good dietary addition is opting for whole grains. These help you get plenty of fiber, which plays a crucial role in heart health.

Tracking your bodily measurements/levels: In general, it pays to know your body, especially if you have a family history of heart issues. This means tracking your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Many people either never get their levels checked or are thinking about numbers from many years ago, which is part of why seeing a doctor regularly matters. The sooner you know that you have some of these markers of potential heart issues, the sooner you can act on them. In addition, if you see a steady increase, you know you may need to change up some of your daily habits.

Getting more sleep: While it may surprise you at first, sleep plays a key role in heart health. People who don’t get enough sleep, even if they have other healthy habits, find themselves at a higher risk of heart issues. In one study, out of 3,000 adults over the age of 45, those who got less than six hours a night of sleep were twice as likely to have strokes or heart attacks. While the relationship isn’t 100% clear, many experts think that low sleep disrupts natural processes in the body. People who are overweight may doubly struggle due to conditions like sleep apnea that inhibit good sleep.

Less sitting: Similar to not sleeping enough, no matter how much exercise you do or how good your diet is, sitting for long periods can cause trouble for your heart. This is particularly difficult for people who have sedentary desk jobs. Studies have shown a massive increase in heart issues and mortality from heart issues in this segment of the population. Along with that, long periods of sitting, including while traveling, raises your risk of blood clots. The good news here is that you don’t need to be an athlete to get the activity you need, even during work. Getting a further parking space from the office, short walks during your day, or investing in a standing workstation can make all the difference. Make sure you’re getting regular exercise as well.

Taking charge of your health is something to be applauded, but you also want to make sure you are going about things in a safe and sustainable way. This is why it’s a good idea to sit down with your doctor and discuss precisely what you should do in terms of supporting your heart.

At Healthcare Associates of Texas, we serve the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area at 15 locations. Our combination of expertise and service makes us an ideal asset for those looking to manage their heart health moving forward.

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