Along with Valentine’s Day, February marks American Heart Month — a perfect time to protect your heart from disease. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States, causing 1 in 4 deaths every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Developing these five healthy habits can reduce your risk of disease and keep your heart strong.
First, be active. Like most muscles, the heart must be exercised. Aim for at least 30 minutes of light cardio every day. If you can’t make it to the gym, activities like walking the dog or cleaning help you achieve this goal.
Second, eat well. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains positively affect your heart. Cut out processed foods, those high in sugar and salt, and keep portion sizes small. Eating well leads to the third habit: maintaining a healthy weight. Nearly 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, so speak to your doctor to find out the healthiest weight for your height and build.
Fourth, stress less. Scientists have not found a direct link between stress and heart disease, but a stressed body produces higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline. This increases blood pressure and cholesterol, leading to a higher risk of heart disease.
Finally, get some shut-eye. Sleeping is critical to heart health and too little of it increases risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends six to eight hours of sleep every night.
Take care of your heart this Valentine’s Day, and incorporate these habits to keep it in top shape.