How to Love Your Heart

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

pink-ribbon-1380887-mFebruary is the month we celebrate and show our love, whether it’s to our sweetheart, a favorite football team at the Super Bowl, or someone else we care about.

But don’t forget to love your own heart, because February is American Heart Month and we still face a sober reality – that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States.

You have only one heart. The following 8 practices can help you keep it healthy and young.

  1. Quit smoking. Never start smoking or using any other tobacco product if you are not a smoker. Tobacco smoke can harm not only anyone who smokes but also others who breathe it.
  2. Know your critical numbers. Get screened or tested for your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar. Don’t wait until any symptoms show up.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. Your weight is one of the important risk factors for heart disease. You need to calculate your body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height). A BMI under 25 is healthy; a value between 25 and 29.9 is overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher means obesity. There are several online resources you can use.
  4. Keep a heart-healthy diet. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits and other plant-based food, along with a balance of lean meat, especially poultry and fish.
  5. Exercise, exercise, and exercise. Being physically active is doable and enjoyable, and it leads to many health benefits.
  6. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats; limit sugar and sodium/salt intake.
  7. Know your family history and other risk factors. While you cannot control your race, age, or family history, you do have control over your lifestyle and other important risk factors.
  8. Recognize common signals of heart trouble and do not ignore these warnings. Ask for a ride to a local hospital and get checked if you experience pain in your chest, back, shoulders or arms; shortness of breath; irregular heartbeat; or any other signs of heart trouble. Also be aware that the symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person.

Fortunately, lifestyle factors are mostly modifiable. Although it’s optimal to start building healthy habits and a healthy cardiovascular system at an early age, it’s never too late or too early to love your heart and safeguard it.

As a final point, the greater your risk for heart disease, the greater risk you likely have for cancer, because both diseases share several common risk factors. Protecting your heart can help you prevent cancer, which is a double-gain!

Let’s go RED, wear RED today, and spread the word!


Image credit: By Gioradi