February is National Heart Disease Awareness month. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, so find out what you can do to keep your heart and the hearts you love, healthy.
The most serious risk factor for heart attacks is smoking. The increase in risk for a heart attack is up to 250% if you currently smoke. Quit, and your risk factor will continue to reduce itself to a level equal to non-smokers.
Lose weight and stay at a healthy weight. Extra weight strains the heart to pump blood to extra tissue.
Reduce your cholesterol levels by cutting back on sugar, desserts, and all animal products. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil instead of butter or margerine.
Stick to an exercise program. Vigorous exercise works the heart muscle, supports healthy cholesterol levels, and has other overall health benefits. Make sure you are working up a sweat each time you work out.
Monitor your blood pressure levels and reduce sodium if your blood pressure is above normal ranges. Increase potassium and calcium from sources such as broccoli, sesame seeds, bananas, beans, beets, spinach, salmon, etc.
Take vitamins that are high in antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. Check with your doctor about what vitamins are safe to take for you.
Create a stress reduction plan. Make a list of activities that are relaxing for you and regularly schedule time for these activities.