February: Heart Health

Engage with the West Michigan Woman Community!

This article was written in conjunction with a partnership with BCBSM's A Healthier Michigan

February is no longer just a time to celebrate those closest to your heart, but a time to take care of your heart. In honor of Heart Health Awareness Month, A Healthier Michigan urges you to not only practice heart health in your daily life, but to spread the awareness and advocacy behind heart disease, especially in women. As an advocate, it’s easy to wear red and spread the word during the month of February; however, heart disease needs year-long attention and there are simple lifestyle changes that could place you on the right track toward prevention.

Dr. Nieca Goldberg, director of New York University’s Women’s Heart Program, stresses that “more than half of heart disease is preventable, and studies have shown that ninety percent of heart attacks in women can be prevented.” How’s that for incentive? Leading a healthier lifestyle through diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices make said statistic a realistic possibility.

A heart-healthy diet includes foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, and salt. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat diary products, beans, low-fat proteins, and fish all aid in reducing the risk for heart disease. Additionally, you should limit the types of fat you consume by cutting down on saturated fats, such as red meat and coconut/palm oils, and trans fats, such as margarines, packaged snack foods, and fried or fast food. A heart-healthy diet also includes moderating how much alcohol you drink: No more than one drink a day for women, as a small amount of alcohol could have a shielding influence on our hearts.

Arguably the biggest lifestyle marker dangerous to heart health is smoking and tobacco usage. Talk to your doctor for tips and therapies to help quit smoking, because within minutes of quitting, your heart health improves. Our hearts could slowly repair themselves from smoking damage and drastically cut our risk of heart disease after just one year smoke-free. Remember that secondhand smoking also ups the prevalence of heart disease.

Just thirty minutes a day of regular exercise and activity lowers the risk of heart disease. Not only is cardiovascular exercise healthy for your heart, but physical activity helps to maintain a healthy weight, which is also easier on your heart. It’s important to note that you don’t have to get discouraged if the thirty minutes is difficult to achieve some days, or if that physical activity isn’t necessarily at a gym. You could break workouts up into ten- to fifteen-minute increments that include gardening, taking the stairs, or walking the dog, as well.

What strides are you taking to promote heart health?

Written by: Kristin M. Coppens is the West Michigan writer for A Healthier Michigan. She has written freelance for numerous outlets in Grand Rapids, and previously worked in marketing and public relations. A self-proclaimed foodie, techie, and political nerd, Kristin is a huge promoter of Grand Rapids, and of Michigan as a whole. Photo: stock.xchng

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