Guest Author - Carolann Stefanco
February is the month that we think about the holiday of Valentine's Day and the symbol of the heart. But the heart itself means so much more. Helen Keller, author from 1880 to 1968 offered some very wise words, "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."
Such wonderful words reminds us to think about this amazing organ in our bodies and how much protection it needs. With commitment, we can prevent heart disease and be able to live a long, healthy life. There are many ways that we can protect our hearts and lower the risk of heart disease. Trying to get at least six hours of sleep a night helps to protect our hearts. Eating healthy,exercising, stopping smoking, getting annual check-ups, managing stress and keeping track of family history is very important.
Following a mostly plant -based diet, or a Mediterranean diet, that includes fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains helps to control factors that can lead to heart disease. This type of daily diet can help to control weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. Keeping your salt levels to no more than 1500 mg. of sodium a day is also another way to help your heart.
Getting at least thirty minutes a day of moderate exercise keeps your heart muscle in good working order. You don't necessarily need to be on a treadmill as gardening, vacuuming and even just pushing a stroller can count. You also can add strength training for twenty minutes twice a week to help build muscle.
Take ten minutes a day to de-stress by doing something you enjoy, like reading or listening to music. Also knowing your family history is very important. You have a 70% greater chance of developing heart disease if one of your parents or sibling had heart disease before 65 years of age.
"Genetics loads the gun,lifestyle factors pull the trigger," says C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD and director of the Woman's Heart Center in Los Angeles. Even if we have a history of heart disease in our families, it is possible by following all of this guidance to overcome and maintain a healthy heart.
The greatest gift you can give to yourself and your loved ones is to take care of and protect your own healthy heart.