February is American Heart Month, a month set aside to spread awareness of heart disease and strokes, and educate men, women, and children on how to make heart health a priority. And although we’re coming to the end of the month, it’s too important a topic not to focus on year-round.
I may not seem like a typical high-risk when it comes to heart issues. After all, I’m a reasonably healthy and fit woman in my early 30’s. But heart disease runs in my family; my grandfather died after suffering a stroke, and two years ago I lost my mother prematurely to congenital heart disease.
I’ve got so much to live for – a wonderful family, terrific friends, a rewarding career – that’s why I’m not taking any chances, and neither should you. A few simple healthy habits will give you a head start towards better heart health.
Schedule a wellness visit. It’s a good idea to see your primary care physician now, before any major issues arise. Your doctor can perform a simple preventive check-up including a blood pressure and cholesterol check, as well as taking a personal and family health history to determine your risk of heart disease or stroke.
Have your cholesterol checked regularly. Do you know the symptoms of high cholesterol? There are none, and that’s the trouble – you could be walking around right now with elevated cholesterol levels and not even know it. That’s why regular cholesterol check-ups are so important.
If you do test high for cholesterol, talk to your doctor about dietary changes and/or medication options that can help bring you back down to safe levels.
And watch that blood pressure. Another symptom-free yet deadly risk factor in heart disease is high blood pressure, so you’ll want to have that checked regularly too. High blood pressure, or hypertension, puts added strain on your heart and may cause damage to your arteries, thus increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke, even kidney failure.
As with cholesterol, if your blood pressure is at an unsafe level your doctor can work with you to develop a treatment plan.
Be a quitter. We all know smoking is unhealthy, but those of us who do are current or former smokers know that it’s also incredibly addicting and really, really hard to quit. I was a pack-a-day girl myself up until about five years ago, and walking away from cigarettes was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Still, smoking does increase your risk of heart disease and stroke by two to four times (not to mention the increased risk of lung cancer, COPD, and so many other major health issues). So do whatever you have to do – go cold turkey, taper off slowly, get the patch, try e-cigarettes – but find what works for you.
Give your heart a break. Lugging around excess weight is hard on your heart. Those extra pounds aren’t just keeping you from fitting in your skinny jeans, they may also be raising your blood pressure, straining your heart, and increasing your risk of developing diabetes. Embracing a healthy diet and active lifestyle today will help you shed those extra pounds and keep them off as you age.
One easy way to kick start a healthier lifestyle is with Aspire. You can start right now by simply enjoying a cold, refreshing can as a quick pick-me-up any time of day. Available in 3 delicious flavors, zero-calorie Aspire delivers healthy, sustained energy without crashes or calories. It never leaves you jumpy or jittery, and the lift and focus it gives you is a big help in feeling better and creating a healthier lifestyle.
Start today. Don’t wait for a health crisis to give you a “wake-up call.” Start today by practicing the healthy habits that will ensure better heart health in the years to come. Make it a priority and you’ll be glad you did.