February is American Heart Month
Five simple tips that can improve your heart health
Heart disease affects hundreds of thousands of Americans each year – according to the CDC, it is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US, responsible for around 647,000 deaths each year . Despite that statistic, there are ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. In honor of February being American Heart Month, here are a few tips recommended by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) you can use to take steps forward in preventing heart disease. You will not be alone in implementing them, either – we at Adler Giersch have used many of these tips in our efforts to have an office-wide focus on health.
Tip #1: Add Activity
Inactivity is a big risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity not only helps your heart, but your lungs as well. It’s recommended to aim for 30 minutes of physical activity each day, five days a week – a total of 2 1/2 hours. These can be broken up into very small chunks if necessary. Many of the staff at Adler Giersch go on daily 10-minute-long walks. Start small, adding more activity into daily activities you’re already doing, and then add more as your fitness level increases. 
Tip #2 Focus on Nutrition
A poor diet is another big risk factor for heart disease. Focusing on eating well is an important part of keeping your heart healthy, helping to keep high blood pressure and cholesterol in check. Limiting sodium, saturated and trans fats, and sugars, and making sure to eat enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and foods with good fats can all contribute to a more heart-friendly diet. Last fall, our office purchased a smoothie machine, which has definitely been helpful to our staff in upping their fruit and vegetable intake, and also led to delicious soups when we’ve had all-staff lunches. Speak with a qualified healthcare professional to assess your specific dietary needs. Learning which foods make up a heart-friendly diet means lots of new recipes to cook with your friends and family, too. 
Tip #3 Quit Smoking
Smoking affects your whole body, including your heart. Quitting smoking has been shown to greatly lower your risk of heart disease, no matter how long you have been smoking. It lowers the risk of plaque building up in your arteries, heart attacks, and blood clots as well. It can be difficult, but there are many resources available to help when going through the process. Check out smokefree.gov for resources and support for quitting. 
Tip #4 Prioritize sleep
Not sleeping well is another factor that can raise your risk of heart disease. Taking steps such as making sure to get enough hours of sleep, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day, not eating heavy meals or drinking alcohol right before bed, and getting enough physical activity during the day can all help to build a better sleep schedule. Getting proper sleep also helps support your immune system and helps in balancing hormones.
Tip #5 De-stress
A healthy mind is as important as a healthy body, and a big part of keeping your heart healthy is prioritizing your mental health. Take time to specifically do something relaxing – whether that’s physical activity, meditation, or a hobby you enjoy. There are quite a few people in our office who have taken meditation classes and participate in lunchtime meditation sessions, and we come out of them refocused and energized for the rest of the work day. If necessary, speak with a mental health professional. Learning healthy habits to cope with stress can go a long way to reducing your risk of heart disease.
While there is no snap-your-fingers-and-you’re-done solution for eliminating your risk of heart disease, focusing on these steps – no matter how small you have to start – is a good beginning.
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