Three ways to protect your heart health and the surprising reasons vaccines make the list
February’s health focus as American Heart Month reminds us to consider ways to take care of ourselves and those we love. Find resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a Blood Pressure 101 quiz and a list of healthy habits to prevent heart disease.
Bottom line: Three things you can do to start a heart healthy routine
Make an appointment with your doctor: Schedule a physical with your family doctor. If you have insurance, call your provider and request a summary of annual benefits you can make the most of; an annual visit with lab screenings may be covered at little out-of-pocket cost. Checking in with your doctor helps start a conversation about three important factors: weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. Knowing those key numbers can be an indicator of how you’re doing now but also serves as a benchmark for future visits. Your doctor can also recommend vaccines that can benefit your overall health. A surprising correlation between older adults with heart disease reveals they are at higher risk of stroke and heart attack as a complication of the flu, while those with pneumonia are more likely to experience blood clots, according to the CDC. Talk with your doctor about getting an annual flu shot, which is recommended for all ages, and get the pneumonia vaccine after age 50.
Start a heart healthy eating plan and get at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity three times per week: Going on a diet often yields temporary results. Creating a healthy eating pattern should form your diet, the food you tend to eat every day. The American Heart Association’s list for a healthy dietary pattern is included below. See additional AHA recommendations here. Eat an overall healthy dietary pattern that emphasizes:
wide variety of fruits and vegetables
whole grains and products made up mostly of whole grains
liquid non-tropical vegetable oils
minimally processed foods
minimized intake of added sugars
foods prepared with little or no salt
limited or no alcohol intake Source: American Heart Association, 2022
Curb tobacco use: Cigarettes, vaping and smokeless tobacco all carry health risks, including cancer. Tobacco use increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, abdominal aortic aneurysm and other conditions; see the CDC’s explanation of how it narrows the arteries and causes lasting damage. Overall, the CDC has concluded smokers live at least a decade less than nonsmokers. See 10 benefits of quitting smoking along with smoking cessation tips, including coordinated access to a counselor, here.
Forward this link to a loved one to start the conversation. Take care of your heart as part of your commitment to living your best life this year and for many years ahead.