Mainstream Living

Tip of the Month

February is American Heart Month, sponsored by the American Heart Association. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. Heart disease can occur at any age and is beginning to appear in younger people. Half of all Americans have at least one of the three leading risk factors for heart disease.

The three leading risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. All three of these can be addressed with changes in lifestyle, diet, and with the help of a primary care doctor. High blood pressure can be reduced with exercise, consuming less sodium, eating more potassium rich foods, drinking less alcohol, and losing weight. It can also be helpful to limit caffeine intake as well as reducing daily stress. These changes in diet and exercise can reduce blood pressure along with prescription medications as directed by a doctor.

High cholesterol can often be treated by understanding fat consumption. Reducing saturated fats and eliminating trans fats are two ways to help cholesterol. These are typically found in red meats, full fat dairy, and processed foods. A heart healthy diet should be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and nuts, fiber, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure to read labels when purchasing processed foods to become aware of the types of fats in each food. 

Quitting smoking can be a very difficult process but there are many helpful outlets once the decision has been made. There are over the counter smoking succession aides such as gum, lozenges, or patches. The Iowa Quitline will provide coupons for these items to help with the financial burden of quitting. There are mobile applications that provide tips, advice, and tracking.  There are also medications that can be prescribed by a physician in order to help reduce cravings and urges.

There are many ways to start taking steps in the right direction for a healthy heart. February is a great time to learn new ways to put those New Year’s resolutions into action and commit to a healthier 2020.

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