February is American Hearth month and that means it's a good moment to think about a disease that kills more than 600,000 Americans each year. Heart disease is the leading killer amongst both men and women. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused my heart disease.
The good news? Heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions. There’s lots we can do to stay heart healthy. According to the CDC, making these healthy lifestyle choices can help:
1. Stop smoking. Quitting smoking is the single most important thing a person can do to live longer. If you are a smoker, you are twice more likely to have a heart attack than a non-smoker. But from the moment you stop smoking, the risk of heart attack starts to reduce. With public smoking bans recently introduced, there has never been a better time to give up.
2. Cut down on salt. Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Avoid foods like crisps, salted nuts, canned and packet soups and sauces, baked beans and canned vegetables, pork pies, pizzas and ready meals. Many breakfast cereals and breads that appear healthy also contain high levels of salt, so keep your eye on these too.
3. Watch your diet. A healthy diet can help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, and can also help increase the chances of survival after a heart attack. You should try to have a balanced diet, containing plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, starchy foods such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice. Avoid foods like biscuits, cakes, pastries and dairy products that are high in saturated fats and sugar.
4. Monitor your alcohol. Too much alcohol can damage the heart muscle, increase blood pressure and also lead to weight gain. Binge drinking will increase your risk of having a heart attack, so you should aim to limit your intake to one to two units a day.
5. Get active. The heart is a muscle and it needs exercise to keep fit so that it can pump blood efficiently round your body with each heartbeat. You should aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a day. If this seems too daunting, start off gently and build up gradually. Keeping fit not only benefits your physical health - it improves your mental health and wellbeing too.