In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson first proclaimed February as National Heart Month. The purpose was to draw attention to the importance of heart health as heart disease takes a heavy toll on American life every year. This year, President Barack Obama made the same proclamation as we all strive to be more aware of what steps to take to maintain a healthier heart.
In the United States alone, over 601,000 people die from heart related diseases annually. Heart disease happens to be the #1 cause of death for women in the U. S. Those numbers are simply alarming. So US Family Health Plan – a TRICARE PRIME health program – wants to take steps to ensure you are aware of how to prevent, manage, and control heart disease. We’re all about having a healthy, happy life. So why not start taking 5 simple steps toward a healthier heart this month?
1. Get active/stay active. Physical activity on a daily basis is one of the key steps to maintaining a healthier heart. In fact, it can help increase longevity and give you a better quality of life as well. Just 30 minutes per day (five days per week) of moderate physical activity – like walking, playing tennis, or riding a bike – can almost guarantee you a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It also gives you extra time to collect your thoughts and de-stress. So why not?
2. Watch your cholesterol. Cholesterol causes blockages in your arteries. Blocked arteries cause heart disease. It’s just like that old saying – “the hip bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to the ankle bone”. When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages. When you have too much bad (LDL) cholesterol in your body, it forms a plaque in your veins and arteries. These blockages lead to heart disease and stroke. Excessive intake of foods that cause high cholesterol, like eggs, cheeseburgers, ice cream or steaks, can lead to problems. Try to cut back on these types of foods, for a healthier heart. Also have your cholesterol checked regularly when you visit your physician.
3. Eat healthier. Healthy foods are the fuel our bodies use to make new cells and create the energy we need to thrive and fight diseases. If you are frequently skipping out on green vegetables, fruits, healthy proteins like fish, and fiber-rich whole grains, you may not be ingesting the building blocks you need to keep your body vibrant and healthy. Consider adjusting your diet to include healthier foods – like salads, smoothies and fish. Your heart, and every other part of your body will appreciate you for it.
4. Manage your blood pressure. High blood pressure one of the most important risk factors for heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure stains your heart, arteries, and kidneys. Managing high blood pressure will help keep your heart healthier, longer. Prolonged high blood pressure eventually turns into hypertension, causing damage to your arteries. At this point, you are working uphill, as your heart struggles to push blood through the damaged arteries. It is possible to manage or prevent high blood pressure through maintaining a healthy weight, eliminating stress, and eating properly. It is worth it. And don’t forget to get your pressure checked regularly at your physician’s office.
5. Reduce blood sugar
Most of the food we eat turns into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies can use for energy. Your body makes a hormone called insulin that acts like a carrier to take your food energy into your cells. If your blood sugar level when you’re not eating, is below 100, you are in the healthy range. If not, your results could indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Although diabetes is treatable and you can live a healthy life with this condition, it greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, most people with diabetes die from some form of heart or blood vessel disease. So it’s a good idea to have your blood sugar checked regularly by a physician, and avoid sugary, fatty foods that can trigger diabetes.
We hope that with these 5 simple steps, you will be on your way to a healthier heart and a longer life. Let’s celebrate American Heart Month together by incorporating these simple steps our everyday lifestyle. See what a difference it makes. US Family Health Plan wants you to stay happy and healthy, with a focus on healthier hearts, during American Heart Month!