Valentine’s Day is coming up, and it’s a special day to be with the ones we love. The stores are already filled with Valentine candy, cards and other goodies to share with a sweetheart. While the hearts that cover Valentine’s Day merchandise are meant to represent love, they also serve as a simple reminder for us to take care of our hearts. The next time you see one of these hearts, think about your own heart, and ask yourself if you are living a heart-healthy lifestyle.
The rates of death due to cardiovascular disease are on the decline, but it is still the number one cause of death in the United States. Many risk factors of cardiovascular disease can be controlled by a living a healthy lifestyle and making wise choices every day. A pro-active approach to heart health also involves visiting your doctor to find out about your cholesterol and blood pressure.
Some risk factors of heart disease are out of our control, such as age and genetics, but there are many things we can control through our everyday choices. Everyday choices include what you eat and how much you exercise. A heart-healthy diet is nutrient rich and includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low fat dairy products. It limits foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients, and also limits saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
Physical activity is another important part of heart health. Healthy people age 18-65 should exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The exercise can be whatever you enjoy the most—swimming, jogging, walking, biking, or playing a sport—the important thing is that you are engaging in physical activity.
Finally, as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle, you should make the pledge to quit smoking. While many people associate smoking with lung cancer, it is also a major risk factor for heart disease.
One added bonus to living a heart-healthy lifestyle is that it is also a cancer-preventative lifestyle. Not smoking, exercising regularly, and eating healthfully will help reduce your risks of developing certain types of cancers along with greatly benefiting your heart health.
Seeing one of cupid’s hearts should also remind you to visit your doctor and find out how your own heart may be doing. You should have your blood pressure measured to know if you have pre-hypertension or hypertension, which is high blood pressure. It is estimated that one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure. Hypertension or pre-hypertension can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney failure.
While at the doctor’s office, you should also have a blood test to determine your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels may also put you at increased risk for heart disease. Knowing you have high cholesterol or blood pressure can help you and your doctor make decisions about changes you can make to help lower or decrease these numbers and lower other risk factors.
This year, enjoy Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart, and make a pledge to see many more holidays by taking care of your heart health.