February 2, 2023
Thoughts of February may bring roses and chocolate to mind, but it’s also American Heart Month and a perfect opportunity to take inventory of the things you can do to lower your risk of heart disease. Preventive measures can help you lower your risk of developing heart disease that could lead to a heart attack. You can also improve your overall health and well-being.
Know your Numbers: Keep Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol in Check
- About 1 out of 3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but it can cause serious problems such as stroke, heart failure, heart attack, and kidney failure.
- Your blood pressure reading uses two numbers, usually written one above or before the other. The top number- Systolic (mm/Hg) - is the pressure or force in the arteries when the heart beats. The bottom number- Diastolic (mm/Hg) - is the pressure measured between heartbeats.
- The American Heart Association provides recommendations for healthy and unhealthy blood pressure ranges.
- Cholesterol is a sticky substance that gathers in blood vessels and makes the passage of blood more difficult.
- Your cholesterol numbers include total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol and “good” HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Talk with your health care provider about having your cholesterol tested and how often you need it tested.
Adopt a Heart Healthy Diet
- Eat a heart-healthy balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low fat dairy, and monounsaturated fats while limiting others, such as saturated fats and added sugars.
Aim for a healthy weight.
- Small amounts of weight loss can make a big difference. Losing just 5 to 6 pounds can lower your blood pressure by 5 points.
- Reducing your body weight by just 2 to 5% (4 to 10 pounds for a 200-pound person) can increase your good cholesterol and lower your triglycerides by as much as 20%!
- Stress can have a negative impact on blood pressure and heart health so taking steps to manage it is important.
- Check out stress reduction workshops from Being Well at Yale and resources available through Yale’s Personal Wellness Benefit.
- Your heart is the most important muscle in your body.
- Learn about the best mix of heart-pumping and muscle-strengthening activities to keep your heart and blood vessels strong and healthy.
Sleep on it
- Sleep plays a critical role in good health and well-being throughout your life. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. Not getting enough sleep or good-quality sleep over time can raise your risk for chronic health problems.
- The amount of sleep you need each day will change over the course of your life.
If you smoke, quit
- Smoking can raise your risk of heart disease and heart attack and worsen other heart disease risk factors.
- Explore the Tobacco Free Yale resources available to help you support your efforts
Whether your lifestyle needs an overhaul or minor tune up, improving your overall health and well-being can begin by just taking a few heartfelt steps.