Methodist Healthcare - February 06, 2023
by Tayla Holman

February is American Heart Month and there’s no time like the present to get serious about your heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but it is preventable with lifestyle changes, a healthy diet and physical activity. Here are some tips to help you keep your heart healthy.

What are the signs of poor heart health?

There are several ways to tell if your heart isn't as healthy as it could be. You may have shortness of breath, chest pain or a racing heart. You may also have trouble keeping up with the people around you when you're exercising. Other signs may require a visit to the doctor's office. These signs, which are generally monitored at a yearly appointment with your primary care provider, could include:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • High resting heart rate
  • Abnormal cholesterol and/or glucose levels
  • Obesity
  • Lack of or inability to do physical exercise appropriate to your age and gender

How does diet affect heart health?

Your diet can impact the health of your entire body. When possible, focus on eating as many fresh, whole foods as possible. If you’re looking to include the convenience or nostalgia of your favorite pre-packaged food choices, check out the nutrition label first. This can help you to avoid items like saturated and trans fats, and limit things like sugar-sweetened beverages, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. You may also want to consider limiting full-fat dairy products, as well as both red and processed meats.

In general, a healthy diet should consist of:

  • Whole foods
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Fiber-rich whole grains
  • Lean protein (low in saturated fat)
  • Nuts and seeds

Keeping your heart health in check

American Heart Month can be a good time to remind yourself that keeping your heart healthy doesn't have to be complicated. Find an activity that gets your body moving, even if it's just for five minutes. If you smoke, consider quitting smoking, and moderate your alcohol consumption. And it's important to get good sleep and manage your weight. If you have questions about the best ways to keep your heart healthy, be sure to talk to your doctor.

Our free health risk assessment is an excellent tool to help individuals better understand their personal risk level for heart disease. Your results are confidential and delivered to you directly upon completion of a short questionnaire.

You can also check your cardiovascular health using the American Heart Association's (AHA) "My Life Check" tool. Plus, the AHA offers a checklist called "Life's Essential 8" that provides eight key measures for improving cardiovascular health.

Additionally, you could help save someone else’s life by learning hands-only CPR. When a person experiences a cardiac arrest, their survival depends on immediately receiving CPR. According to the American Heart Association, over 70% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen in homes.

Hands-only CPR is simple and requires only two steps: first, call 911 and then push hard and fast in the center of the person’s chest to the beat of popular songs like “Staying Alive.” Watch and share this hands-only CPR instructional video.