February is American Heart Month—dedicated to motivating men, women and children to adopt healthy lifestyles that will help to stop heart disease. Throughout the course of a typical day, we make dozens of choices that ultimately impact our heart’s health. Encourage your friends and family to join you this month in living a mindful lifestyle that helps to prevent heart disease, the nation’s leading cause of death.
Get your blood pressure checked at least once a year, more if you have high blood pressure. Many local pharmacies and grocery stores offer kiosks that you can use for free. Your doctor should also be keeping tabs on your cholesterol levels. If either of these levels are high, your health care provider can offer guidance for lowering them.
A healthy, well-rounded diet will make you and your heart feel better. Stock up on nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables and avoid saturated and trans fats as well as excess sugar. A heart healthy diet also includes whole grains, low-fat dairy, and protein-rich foods like fish, lean meats, legumes, nuts and eggs.
Complement your healthy eating with regular exercise. Working out can help you lose excess weight, improve your overall fitness, lower heart disease risk factors, reduce stress and boost your mood. Chapel Hill has plenty of indoor facilities to get your heart pumping, and both the Link Apartments® Linden and Gwendolyn feature state-of-the-art fitness centers. If you prefer to break a sweat outdoors, explore the town’s many bike lanes and walking trails. As a rule of thumb, it’s recommended that American adults get two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Find an activity you enjoy—whether its power walking, dancing, rowing, or running—and pencil the workout into your calendar so you make time for it each week.
Another plus of exercising regularly is that it will help you maintain a healthy weight. For adults, this is determined by your body mass index, or BMI. BMI is calculated with your weight and height, and for an adult, a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered a normal, healthy weight.
The past year has been full of challenges, so it’s important to remember to practice self-care and manage stress. Being active and meditating can both help alleviate stress from your life. Expressing our emotions and feelings is also a healthy habit, so turn to your support network of friends, family, and community or religious organizations when you need someone to listen.
When we sleep, our bodies recover so they can support healthy brain function and our physical wellbeing during our waking hours. Adults need seven to nine hours of good quality sleep each night to reduce the risk of developing chronic health problems.
Focusing on your heart health has never been more important. People with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Heart-healthy living involves understanding your risk, making thoughtful choices, and taking steps to reduce your chances of getting heart disease. When you take care of yourself, you’re setting an example for others, especially the children in your life so they can form habits for a healthy, fulfilling life.