As I sat down to write this month’s column, I asked myself one question – why is it important to celebrate American Heart Month?
Sure, we all know that a healthy heart is a key to a healthy life. We also know that once a year in February we see a lot of information about heart health floating around online, in stores, and on television – but why is it important?
Well, lowering blood pressure, improving or managing cholesterol levels, and improving your body’s ability to manage things such as insulin, or blood sugar, are very good reasons. Embracing a healthy lifestyle and focusing on heart health at any age can help prevent many health issues, such as your risk of heart attack and stroke, from developing in the first place. Still, as I contemplated all those things, I asked myself why we should all feel the need this time of year to focus our attention on quite possibly our most important organ – our heart.
For starters, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. A fact maybe many of you are familiar with. Not just for one race, gender, or age group but for all men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups. One person in America dies every 36 seconds from cardiovascular disease. That’s about 655,000 Americans a year. The United States spends roughly $219 billion each year on heart disease health care services. All for a disease that could be prevented if we all embrace a healthier way of living.
Taking it one step further, Kentucky has a higher heart disease death rate than the national average, and heart disease itself is the number one killer of Kentucky women. All of these are more than a few great reasons to dig deeper and find out how we can work to bring about the change we need to lower those statistics.
To help keep your heart healthy it all comes down to exercise and diet. A few things to take into consideration if you want to keep your heart in great shape is to cut down on salt. Eat less sugar. Limit your saturated fats and fill up on fruits and vegetables instead. Try and eat more fish, and cut back on bad habits like smoking and alcohol. Sounds easy, right? Perhaps not, but if you work to incorporate at least one of these habits into your routine you will be assured your heart gets the help it needs to go on beating.
Getting more exercise is not always easy either, especially this time of year and in the ever-present face of COVID-19. However, there are some ways you can eat healthily and get your heart pumping with some great exercise too. One of which is simply just going for a walk. It might seem too easy, but walking is one of the best ways to strengthen your heart, get your heart rate up and keep it there while taking part in an activity that is easier on your joints.
Making lifestyle changes is not always easy, although by doing just a few of these things you can help a part of you that never stops working continue to do the best job it can for your body. Beat to beat, every second of your day, your heart is working for you. By adopting some of these tips you’ll give it the healthier life it needs to keep on beating this year and well into many more to come.