February is American Heart Month, and our denova team joins the American Heart Association in advocating for improved heart health. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death among Americans. Every 34 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a heart attack. Despite increased education efforts, heart disease kills 1 in every 5 women, making it the leading cause of death in women in the United States.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the dangers associated with heart disease in many different ways. Recent studies show that COVID-19 can have harmful effects on the heart and vascular system. There has also been a spike in unhealthy behaviors, such as eating poorly, abusing drugs and alcohol, and limiting physical activity.
Many people also don’t realize that everyday stress can lead to plaque deposits in the arteries. There’s a strong link between mind and body, and that’s a key reason our denova team focuses on delivering integrated health care. Stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and anger all have a negative effect on heart health.
The good news is that, in many cases, heart disease can be prevented. Here are some ways to keep your heart healthy:
A 2017 study revealed that poor diet is linked to nearly half of deaths caused by heart disease, stroke and diabetes. One way to fight cardiovascular disease is to make healthy choices regarding food and beverages. Some tips include:
- Choose a primarily plant-based diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
- If you choose to eat meat, focus on poultry, fish, and lean meats in smaller portion sizes
- Limit foods that have been chemically processed with refined ingredients and artificial substances.
- Avoid ultra-processed foods that have more chemicals and additives to make fake food taste real. These also have a longer shelf life.
- Read labels and avoid foods with high-fructose corn syrup, high sodium, and a long list of additives.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, and drink plenty of water.
One out of every four U.S. adults report being inactive during their leisure time, and only about half of U.S. adults report levels of aerobic physical activity consistent with national guidelines. Frequent exercise helps lower blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol, keep weight off, and strengthen the heart muscle, allowing it to pump blood efficiently throughout the body. Some tips for exercising include:
- Check with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that is right for you.
- Barring any medical conditions, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or an equal combination of both) each week.
- If you work at a desk for most of the day, set a timer to get up every hour and walk around for five minutes.
- Try to incorporate muscle-strengthening exercises in your routine twice a week.
- Look for ways to increase activity, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther away.
Between 50 and 70 million U.S. adults don’t get enough sleep or have sleep disorders, according to estimates from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Sleep deprivation affects levels of the stress hormone cortisol, inflammation and our “fight or flight” hormones, which can increase weight and blood pressure, and contribute to cardiovascular disease. Some ways to improve sleep include:
- Try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
- Go to bed and wake at about the same time every day.
- Keep the bedroom dark and quiet with no electronics or clocks.
- Signal your mind and body that it’s time to rest by disconnecting screens 60 minutes before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m. and sugary or salty foods in the evening.
Staying connected to people and practicing gratitude are two more ways to help boost cardiovascular health.
New patients can call denova Collaborative Healthcare at 602-777-6337 for a free, 15-minute wellness consultation. You can also click here to make an appointment online. Remember, if you are experiencing a crisis, please call 911 immediately.