February is more than just the shortest month of the year. It’s the month where we stop and reflect on the importance of our heart health and learn more about the steps we can take to manage and prevent heart disease.
So, since it’s Heart Month, let’s look at some risk factors and the most helpful tips to keep your heart healthy for years to come.
Three most common risk factors for heart disease and stroke
- The most common risk factor is typically high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Nearly 1.3 billion adults across the world suffer from high blood pressure1,making it one of the leading factors behind heart disease globally. This condition occurs when the pressure of blood pushing against your blood vessels is consistently too high. There are no visible signs of high blood pressure and it can only be identified by having your blood pressure taken.
- Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found within our blood to help with building healthy cells. High cholesterol occurs when there is a build-up of low-density lipoproteins, or “bad cholesterol,” in your arteries. This condition leads to fatty deposits in your blood vessels.
- Diabetes limits your body’s ability to make insulin or use the insulin it does make as well as it should. Insulin helps move glucose from food to your body’s cells for energy. When you have diabetes, the sugar levels in your blood rise which can lead to damaged blood vessels and a greater risk of developing heart disease.
Keeping your heart healthy through foods
Leafy green vegetables
Vegetables like spinach and kale are packed full of vitamin K, a helpful nutrient that protects arteries and fights blood clotting. Leafy green vegetables also help to reduce blood pressure through dietary nitrates.
The antioxidants found in strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries help to prevent inflammation caused by oxidation in your cells. Berries also decrease bad cholesterol levels and improve blood pressure by improving cell function in your blood vessels.
Nuts like walnuts and almonds provide a wealth of nutrients like vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and unsaturated fats that go a long way to reducing cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean diet, and is a staple in any diet focused on improving heart health. Extra virgin olive oil contains high amounts of vitamin E and K as well as powerful antioxidants that help fight inflammation in your arteries.
Habits to kick for improved heart health
By giving up smoking, the walls of your arteries loosen up and widen, your heart rate improves, and your cholesterol returns to healthy levels. By sticking to helpful habits and techniques to keep your body smoke-free, you’ll see growing improvements in your heart health overtime.
Stress raises your blood pressure and strains your cardiovascular system, causing permanent damage. While stress itself is damaging to your heart, some common coping mechanisms for stress can also put you at risk. Avoid coping with drinking and overeating, instead, go for a walk or meditate to bring your stress levels down.
Alcohol abuse actively thins your heart muscle and affects its ability to pump blood. When heart disease is caused by alcohol abuse it is referred to as alcoholic cardiomyopathy.
Habits to practice for better heart health
Getting regular exercise
You only need to get about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week to help your heart.2 This activity can be going for a bike ride, taking a brisk walk, or even doing some yard work.
Get seven hours of sleep
If you’re getting less than seven hours of sleep each night, you aren’t giving your body the opportunity to lower your blood pressure. More sleep means your body’s blood pressure stays lower for longer. To get better sleep, stick to a regular sleep schedule throughout the week, avoid artificial light before bedtime and keep your bedroom dark and cool at night.
Get rewarded for your heart healthy lifestyle
With Foresters GoTM, you can easily track stats like the steps you take each day and the amount of sleep you’re getting. Through the app, you can also compete in friendly challenges with other members and set personal goals for yourself.
While taking part in these challenges and tracking activities, you’re earning Foresters Go Reward Points that can be redeemed online at the Foresters Go Rewards Store for electronics, gift cards and more. Members can learn more about Foresters Go through MyForesters.
Foresters Go is provided by The Independent Order of Foresters and is operated by dacadoo AG.
App Store is a trademark of Apple Inc.
Google Play is a trademark of Google LLC
420355 CAN/US (02/22)