By Maj. Jasmine Peterson, Army Public Health Nurse, U.S. Army Public Health CommandFebruary 2, 2015
Did you know that your heart beats more than 100,000 times a day, pumping nearly 1,900 gallons of blood? This means your heart is beating almost 42 million times and pumping about 700,000 gallons of blood a year! February is American Heart Month, a time to bring awareness to the risks of heart disease and ways to stay 'heart healthy.' So, show your heart some love this month.
One of the first steps to cherishing your heart is to know and understand your heart health numbers:
• Monitor and know your blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension is often called the 'silent killer' because many do not know they have it; and it is one of the leading causes of death within the United States. A healthy blood pressure is a systolic pressure (the top number, pressure when the heart is beating) below 120 and a diastolic pressure (the bottom number, pressure when the heart rests between beats) below 80.
• Check your cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like material that your body needs. However, too much of it puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. You can check your cholesterol through a simple blood test. Get your cholesterol checked every five years, unless your healthcare provider recommends more frequent checks, ensuring that your heart is pumping as smoothly as possible.
• Track your weight. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease.
Be passionate about your heart's health by putting some prevention into play:
• Get a yearly check-up! Work with your healthcare team even if you feel healthy. This is a great way to check for and control conditions that may be putting you at risk for heart disease such as hypertension or diabetes.
• Eat healthy! Eat foods high in fiber and low in saturated fat, trans fat, salt and cholesterol. Aim to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Choosing to eat a healthy diet can help you avoid heart disease.
• Exercise! One of the best ways to make your heart strong is to work it out. Getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, like brisk walking, can help you stay at a healthy weight and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
• Don't smoke! If you smoke, quit. If you don't, do not start. Smoking cigarettes greatly increases your risk for heart disease. Your healthcare team can help you quit, so give them a call if you smoke or use tobacco products.
• Limit your alcohol! Drinking too much alcohol over time can increase your risk for heart disease. If you are a woman, stick to no more than one alcoholic beverage a day and if you are a man, no more than two.
So, go ahead and make your heart your valentine this month and try these tips. As always, contact your healthcare provider before starting any diet and exercise program as well as to get more information about improving your heart health.