American Heart Month — 5 Ways to Keep your Heart Healthy
We all know that taking good care of our hearts is an important part of living a healthy life; however, it can be easier said than done. Eat healthy, lose weight, exercise — it might all feel a little overwhelming. It’s important to remember that even small changes can make a big difference, and that it’s never too early or too late to focus on your heart health! In honor of American Heart Month, here are five small things you can do in your everyday life to help your heart be the best it can be:
- Visit your doctor for a heart health checkup. Did you know the American Heart Association recommends having your cholesterol checked as often as every four years? If it’s been a while since you’ve visited your doctor, it might be time to drop in and have your blood pressure, cholesterol, or Body Mass Index (BMI) checked. Learn more about the AHA’s heart screening recommendations here.
- Find ways to fit exercise into your busy day. Exercise doesn’t have to mean taking spin classes or going to the gym. Take walks with your family if you’re trying to fit in quality time, or during work calls if you’re stuck on the phone all day. Jog in place while watching your favorite TV shows, or purposefully park far away from your destination to get some extra steps. Although the AHA recommends moderate exercise for 30 minutes on most days, even 10 minute blocks of time count!
- Pay attention to the labels. Be sure to compare food labels at the grocery store — choose items with the lowest sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and sugar. Look for foods with whole grains, and make sure it’s the first ingredient in the list. Packaging can be deceiving! Also, when making meals at home, be sure to use the serving size guidelines located on the nutrition label to make sure your portion sizes are reasonable.
- Make healthy choices when dining out. It is possible to take care of your heart while dining out without sacrificing all of the fun and flavor. Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions — ask for food to be cooked in vegetable oil instead of butter, or with no added salt. Order sauces or dressings, which can be major sources of added sugar and salt, on the side so you can control how much to include in your meal. Finally, pay attention to portion size. Split large entrees with a friend, or take half home with you to be enjoyed later.
- Keep track of your weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can make a big impact on your heart, but it doesn’t have mean a drastic overhaul to your lifestyle. Set short term goals for yourself to help keep things in perspective. Track your daily food intake with a food diary or app, and use it to find ways to make small healthy changes that can save you calories. And don’t forget to celebrate your progress! Find healthy ways to reward yourself for achieving your goals.
For more information about keeping your heart healthy, visit the American Heart Association’s website at www.heart.org.
We’re excited to launch a monthly column featuring genetic counselors from external institutions and Color. Each month, genetic counselors will share insights on how genetics can empower people to make more informed health decisions. In honor of American Heart Month, Natalie Lang, Genetic Counselor at Color, shares insights on taking care of our hearts.
Natalie Lang is a genetic counselor and content specialist at Color, where she is involved in curating new content, managing and updating current content, and report writing. She received her MS in genetic counseling from California State University-Stanislaus in 2015. She is board certified in genetic counseling and holds a California state license.