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February has arrived, which means you’re bound to see heart-shaped everything just about anywhere you go; heart-shaped chocolates, heart-shaped cakes, and even heart-shaped edible arrangements. While all of these things are great, they’re not so great for your actual heart. We know what you’re thinking, “Just another blog telling me I shouldn’t eat sweets”. No…we’re all about having balance in your life, and we don’t expect you to sit around snacking only on kale chips and unsalted almonds. (And just to be clear, you’re in the majority if that is NOT your go-to snack…)

Okay, back to your heart. What if we told you the best gift you can give your loved ones this month are not heart-shaped chocolates in a box but a healthy heart in you? What if we also told you that heart disease is the #1 leading cause of death in the United States — killing over 659,000 people each year, including men, women, and children? Would you consider taking better care of your heart?

We want you to be your healthiest self for you and your loved ones, and your heart plays a big role in keeping your body healthy. So, in honor of Heart Awareness Month, we’ve put together 5 tips to help you keep your heart healthy.

Get your heart health back on track with these 5 tips:

Tip #1: Understand what Hypertension is:
Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) is when your blood pressure is higher than normal (120/80). While it’s completely normal for your blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day, it’s not normal for it to be elevated for a long period of time. In fact, the longer your blood pressure stays high, the more risk you are at of developing serious health issues. If you know you struggle with high blood pressure, consider buying an at-home BP monitor to do daily checks. For more information on Hypertension (high blood pressure), click here.

Tip #2: Embrace a healthier diet:
Eating a colorful and balanced diet is key to keeping your heart healthy. Just think of it this way; healthy diet=healthy heart. Not only can a good diet help you maintain a healthy weight, but it also improves your blood pressure and cholesterol, which lowers your risk of heart disease. Choose foods that support your heart health like nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, and whole grains. But those are just to name a few. Another thing to keep in mind is that salt is a silent but harmful ingredient that can be found in most processed foods and restaurant-based dishes. Did you know that salt is used to preserve many of the foods we consume? While it can add a little pzazz to our meals, sodium leads to elevated blood pressure and high cholesterol. So, ditch the saltshaker and find an alternative, like lemon, to add a little extra flavor to your meals.

Tip #3: Move your body regularly:
Sitting for long periods of time can increase your risk of heart disease. That’s why it’s super important to get and keep your body moving! Engage in physical activities that get your heart pumping, like walking during lunch, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or doing a quick 30-minute workout. Your heart is a muscle, and like any muscle, it needs exercise to strengthen it. So, find a physical activity you enjoy that gets your body moving, and stay consistent. Your heart will thank you later.

Tip #4: Stop stressing and get some sleep:
As stated by the American Heart Association, “Stress may lead to high blood pressure, which can post a risk for heart attack and stroke”. But “my life is busy, and stress is inevitable,” you say? Okay, we get it. While stress can’t be totally avoided, you can make small steps to manage stress in a healthier way. For instance, meditating for a few minutes each day, practicing deep breathing, or doing 30 minutes of exercise. Another way can be getting better quality sleep, regularly. Stress can hinder good sleep patterns, and not getting adequate sleep puts you at a higher risk for heart disease. You may think you can pull off a few hours of sleep well, but the truth is, your body doesn’t function properly on little sleep. It actually affects your blood pressure. It’s recommended to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night to support your heart and overall health.

Tip #5: Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke:
Smoking kills more than 8 million people each year, with 7 million of those dying from direct tobacco use and 1.2 million dying from secondhand smoke. It is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. and it all starts with you. In order to keep your heart in tip-top condition, it is key to quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke. Not only does tobacco use cause damage to your heart and blood vessels, but it also highly increases your likelihood of developing severe heart diseases. But we know once you start it’s not so easy to quit. Click here and learn how to live a smoke-free life and get your health back on track.

The key to having a healthy heart is simply to take care of it. It’s never too late to implement lifestyle changes that keep your heart healthy, and these 5 tips can help you do just that. Need help getting started? Schedule an annual physical with one of our Aylo Health primary care providers today!

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