When President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed February as American Heart Month in 1963, more than half of all deaths in the U.S. stemmed from heart disease. We've made progress, but the number is still 1 in 4, and heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women. The good news is, there's a lot we can do, both to lessen our own risks and set an example for those around us.
1. Heart disease is preventable
At least half of heart disease deaths are preventable. Prevention starts with knowledge; the Heart Foundation says that knowing your family history, understanding your risk factors, and communicating with your doctor are good places to start. The second part is action. When it comes to heart health, action means staying in touch with your body.
2. Know the 8 essentials of a heart-healthy diet
There are thousands of books, studies and other publications about healthy eating. The renowned Mayo Clinic narrows it down to 8 essentials:
1) Choose healthy portions
2) Enjoy more fruits and vegetables
3) Eat whole grains
4) Choose healthy fats like olive oil
5) Choose low-fat proteins such as fish, beans and white-meat poultry
6) Watch out for sodium
7) Plan out your weekly menu to get the edge on fast food
8) Allow yourself the occasional indulgence
Notice number 8. Life is to be enjoyed, and self-punishing is not only the wrong spirit, it makes it easier to give in and binge rather than enjoy treats in moderation. At the same time, a positive side effect of healthier eating is realizing just how delicious healthy foods, such as a Mediterranean diet, can be.
3. Enjoy healthy exercise
If your goal is heart health and quality of life, then as little as 15 minutes a day can start to make a difference. Moderately intense, steady exercise like walking or cycling—especially if you enjoy it with a friend and are able to share a few words while you move—is just right.
What's the ideal amount of exercise for heart health?
While 15 minutes is a good place to start, working toward 30 to 40 minutes per day of moderate to intense exercise is a healthy goal. This amount can be split into 10-minute chunks and still be effective. Measurable goals are the key to any life change. An activity tracker is one way to plan and measure your workouts.
4. Know your body by knowing your numbers
With time, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack and stroke. Blood pressure monitoring can help you check in with your body, while lifestyle factors, like diet, sodium intake, exercise, stress and smoking, can lower your risk.
A mobile EKG monitor can also make it easier to keep your doctor informed of your heart health.
Making a difference
In honor of American Heart Month, Omron is offering 20% off blood pressure monitors, fitness products and mobile EKGs. This is part of a commitment to a world without heart attacks and strokes. How can you make a difference? Taking the Going for Zero Pledge, supporting the American Heart Association, or becoming an advocate are all ways to take this commitment to the streets. But the most important way all of us can make a difference is by starting with our own hearts.