The month of hearts and romance is also National Heart month.
But rather than focus on chocolate-filled Valentine hearts, this Heart month is all about being heart healthy, developing habits that will keep your heart beating well and recognizing the signs and symptoms of heart problems, including heart attacks.
Heart disease is the number one killer of adults in America, edging out cancer and beating out other all other causes by a wide margin. So, how do you have a healthy heart and avoid being a heart-disease statistic?
Here are five ways you can be heart healthy.
Know the Signs
Do you know the signs of a heart attack? They can be different for men and women.
Heart Attack Signs in Women
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
Heart Attack Signs in Men
- Chest pain that feels like “an elephant” is sitting on your chest; the squeezing sensation may come and go, or may be constant and intense
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
- shortness of breath—you feel like you can’t get enough air, even when you’re resting
- dizziness, or feeling like you’re going to pass out
- breaking out in a cold sweat
- stomach discomfort that feels like indigestion
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t wait. Call your doctor right away and/or go to the nearest emergency room.
Getting out and moving for 30 minutes a day will not only give you a healthier heart, but will improve your outlook on life, give you more energy and make you feel better in general. You don’t have to run marathons or become a weight lifter; a brisk walk, going dancing or engaging in your favorite sport will all do the job.
A varied diet that includes lean proteins, whole grains and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is good for your heart—and for the rest of you. Avoiding fried foods, sodas and highly processed foods will also improve your health.
Most adults do best with eight or more hours of sleep a night. Many studies show that people who sleep less than seven hours have high blood pressure and are more than twice as likely to die of heart disease. If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, develop a relaxation ritual that may include such things as a warm bath, herbal tea and turning off the electronics before bedtime.
Take Advantage of Preventive Care
Getting regular check-ups and knowing your numbers can help you lower your heart-disease risk factors. You should know your weight, blood pressure, waist size (there is a correlation between waist size & risk), cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels. Reviewing these numbers with your doctor can help the two of you work together to build and keep a healthy heart.
What are you doing to be heart healthy?