Happy Valentine’s Day from The Mercy Community!
As we celebrate a season of love, we are reminded that February is the American Heart Association’s National Heart Month. It is a time to increase awareness of heart health and learn more about making healthy changes.
Cardiovascular disease – including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure – is the leading cause of death of men and women in the United States. It also ranks high as a cause of disability. The silver lining is that cardiovascular disease is easily preventable. By making a plan for prevention, the various risk factors for heart-related illnesses can be reduced significantly.
Start by reaching out to your health care resources. Even if you feel healthy, make sure you get an annual check-up. Whether it’s a physician’s office, a hospital or clinic, any doctor, nurse or nurse practitioner can check for conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, including elevated cholesterol and blood sugar. High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of heart-related illnesses. Simply monitoring it is an effective, proactive way to stay on top of your heart health – and it’s so easy! You can check your blood pressure at health care facilities, pharmacies and grocery stores for free.
Eating healthy foods and keeping with regular exercise are the most important components to decreasing your risk of any illness. They both contribute to maintaining a healthy weight, which takes undue stress off your heart. Make sure to have five servings of fruits and vegetables every day and avoid foods high in sugar and trans fat: two things that contribute to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, and in turn, increase the risk of heart attack. Small changes in your physical activity are more likely to last long-term. Make an effort to spend more time outside, and encourage your friends and family to get more exercise. Overcoming a challenge is always easier when you’re surrounded by loved ones.
Be compassionate with yourself. Making changes isn’t always easy, so it’s important to forgive yourself if you become overwhelmed. Take one day at a time, and remember that nothing happens over night. Do what you can today, and tackle what you can tomorrow – and get a good night’s sleep in between!
While you show your affection to your Valentines this month, make sure you show your heart a little love, too!