February is Heart Month, and as we approach the end of the month, this is a great time to take one more look at what you’re doing to make your heart the healthiest this year that it can be.
Below, Touchmark Director of Health & Fitness Operations Kim Lehmann lists the steps people can take each day to improve their heart. “Many of these habits we’ve heard before, but a few may surprise you.”
Healthy habits for the heart:
Food: Eat an abundance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and good-for-you fats and protein. Limit the amount of red meat, salt, and potassium. Maintain a healthy weight.
Fitness: Exercise daily—cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance. Stand more; sit less.
Sleep: Strive for 7–8 hours each night. If you have sleep apnea, treat it.
Stress: Practice ways to reduce daily stress, such as meditating, devoting time to a hobby, etc.
Teeth: Brush and floss your teeth; the health of your mouth affects the health of your heart.
Alcohol: Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. The recommendation is one drink a day for women, two for men.
Socialization: Spend time with friends. Laugh.
Depression: Get medical help and treat depression.
Smoking: Don’t smoke. If you do, seek help to break the habit.
Take care of yourself: Visit your doctor. Take prescribed medications. Be aware women are at increased heart disease risk after menopause. Men taking the “blue pill” for erectile dysfunction are also especially at heart risk for heart disease.
Kim says with an increasing number of people taking pills that affect the heart rate, it’s important to not rely on general pulse targets when exercising. “If people are taking one of these medications, they want to work with a professional to determine what’s ideal for them so they don’t overtax the heart.”
Similarly, she says high temperatures can be problematic. “There’s a reason saunas and warm-water spas post warnings and caution people to limit their time. The increased temperature opens blood vessels, and people can become dizzy or faint if they’re exposed too long to the high temperatures.”
Along with being the number-one cause of death, heart disease is one of the leading causes of disability. “As we age, the walls of our heart thicken and stiffen. This can lead to inefficient pumping, which can bring on high blood pressure, increased fatigue, and exercise intolerance. By following healthy habits, we can minimize the effects aging has on the heart and enjoy each day to the fullest.”
For more information, visit: niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/young-heart-tips-Older-adults/Documents/YAH_TipSheet.pdf