February is American Heart Month, and according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), we’re more successful at meeting our health goals when we team up with others.
Here are some facts, tips and resources to inspire you to join with others to improve your heart health.
Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States?
According to the Heart Foundation, heart disease is a broad term used for a wide variety of diseases of the heart and blood vessels such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm disorders called arrhythmias; and defects of the heart present at birth, also called congenital heart defects.
Research shows that about 90 percent of middle-aged people and more than 74 percent of young adults have one or more risk factors for heart disease. These factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and being a smoker or overweight. Lowering these risk factors can decrease the chances of developing heart disease.
Follow these heart healthy lifestyle tips with loved ones – and remember, you don’t have incorporate them all at once, as small steps lead to big changes.
- Be more physically active: Ask a colleague to walk with you on a regular basis during your break or join an exercise class at your local community center and bring a neighbor along.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Find someone in your friend group, at work, or in your family who also wants to reach or maintain a healthy weight. Plan regular check-ins with them to stay motivated.
- Eat a nutritious diet: We tend to eat like our friends and family, so ask others close to you to join in your effort to eat healthier. Together, try the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s free Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. Research shows that compared to a typical American diet, it lowers high blood pressure and improves blood cholesterol levels.
- Quit smoking: To help you quit, ask others for support or join a support group. Research shows that people are much more likely to quit smoking if their spouse, friend, or sibling does as well. Social support online can also help you on your journey to a smoke-free life. Many free resources are available to help you quit, such as apps, a motivational text service, and a chat line at BeTobaccoFree.hhs.gov and Smokefree.gov.
- Reduce your stress: Physical activity helps your heart health and can also help reduce stress. Try incorporating a relaxing activity every day, like walking, yoga, or meditation.
- Get enough quality sleep: Sleeping 7-8 hours a night helps to improve heart health. Keep in mind that it is not only the amount of time you sleep, but also the quality of your sleep. Try turning off the screen before bed and focus on relaxing by listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.
- Track your heart health stats: Keeping a log of your blood pressure, weight goals, and physical activity will help you stay on a heart healthy track. Ask your friends or family to join you in the effort. Check out NHLBI’s Healthy Blood Pressure for Healthy Hearts: Tracking Your Numbers worksheet.
We encourage you to use these suggested tips as a guide to incorporate healthier habits into your everyday life. Remember the importance of having a supportive team around you and strengthening your close relationships. This means having people in our lives who encourage, motivate, and help us. We know that feeling connected and having companionship through close relationships benefits our overall health and leaves us with a grateful, happy heart.