The month of February is often idealized as being associated with hues of the colors red, pink and burgundy along with heart shaped motifs in recognition of Valentine’s Day, which lands each year on the 14th of the month. However, these design themes lend themselves to an even greater cause as February is also nationally recognized as Heart Disease Awareness Month. This week we observe this movement to promote healthy heart conditions across the land by listing out the do’s and don’ts to follow in avoiding heart disease.
It Keeps On Ticking
The heart is among the most important vital organs, second only to the brain and spinal cord. Without its functioning, the human body will fail to survive for more than about 20 to 30 minutes—at which point the brain will become permanently damaged due to a lack of oxygen, thereby resulting in failure of the nervous system and remaining bodily functions. Heart disease is a group of conditions, prominently represented by coronary artery disease (CAD), which can pose a serious threat of heart attack due to the restriction of blood flow to the heart as a result of blockages in blood vessels by layers of cholesterol deposits that form an expanding plaque on artery walls that narrows the width of the passage. The keys to maintaining your heart’s peak condition are eating right, getting enough exercise, and avoiding bad habits.
What the Heart Wants
A healthy heart needs regular exercise for at least 30 minutes per day no less than 3 days per week. Beyond this there are a host of foods high in vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats and lipids that are known to have beneficial effects on the heart’s good condition. These include leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, and collard greens; avocados, fatty fish and fish oils; berries including strawberries, blueberries, açai, pomegranate, blackberries, and raspberries; and, notably, whole grains such as wheat, rye, oats, brown rice, quinoa, millet, and barley.
Besides these healthy steps it is critical for heart health that you avoid harmful habits such as drinking, smoking, drug abuse, sitting for extended periods without standing and walking around, and eating an excess of foods high in things like sugar, sodium, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Specifically these hazardous foods include things like fried foods such as potato chips, deep fried chicken, fish, and french fries; full-fat dairy products like milk, butter, ice cream, and cheese; sodas and “juices” high in added sugar, especially those that include high-fructose corn syrup; fatty meats like bacon and ground beef, which is often used for dishes like tacos, spaghetti, and cheeseburgers; baked sweet goods including cookies, brownies, and cupcakes; refined starches such as white rice, white breads, and pasta; processed meats like cold cut lunch meats, hot dogs, and the pepperonis found on pizza, which is also made with refined starch and fatty dairy cheese; candy, pretzels, corn chips, and breakfast sausages; the majority of fast food and basically most of what you’ve grown to find desirable in the realm of culinary arts.
Luckily there’s not always a need to quit these foods cold turkey as most are fine to enjoy on occasions and some in moderation. The danger arises when they become a habitual part of our nutritional intake. So, the key here is to maintain a disciplined diet while allowing yourself small opportunities to indulge.
Be certain to visit your physician regularly to receive lab tests for things like hypertension and cholesterol levels, and when you do, let us know so we can help you stay on top or lift you when you’re down. At USFHP your health and well-being are the source of success. With our enhanced benefits members can opt for up to $250 a year in gym reimbursement, which can be a great motivator in maintaining a balanced diet.
We’ve partnered with Welldoc, a highly recognized healthcare technology leader, to provide a unique app experience just for you. Their HFStar app makes it easy for individuals living with heart failure to manage their health with the app’s symptom tracker, coaching, education and accountability. Every time you track in HFStar you get real-time feedback that helps you feel more confident about managing your condition.
For more information give us a call at 1-800-241-4848 to discuss your plan and other benefits.