When January 1st rolls around, it is almost always accompanied with a resolve to make this year better than the last, often in terms of health and wellness. Among the most common resolutions every year are to lose weight, eat healthier, and exercise. All of these are admirable goals that can undoubtedly improve the way one looks and feels, but we would suggest health resolutions that are bit more targeted. Afterall, with heart disease being the number one killer of both American men and women, it only stands to reason that we should all focus a little harder on heart health. Here are four ways to get started:
Know Your Heart Health Numbers
A quick and easy way to keep tabs on your heart health is to understand the numbers that really matter. A quick visit to your doctor is all it takes to get these readings and to determine if they are within a healthy range. The most important heart health numbers to understand include:
- Cholesterol – LDL or “bad cholesterol” should be under 100.
- Blood Pressure – For blood pressure readings, the top number (systolic) should be under 120, while the bottom number (diastolic) should be under 80.
- Blood Sugar – In most cases, blood sugar readings before eating should be under 100 and under 140 if taken two hours after a meal.
- BMI – Body mass index calculates body fat in proportion to an individual’s height and weight. Healthy ranges are between 18.5 and 24.9%.
Raise Your Heart Rate Every Day
It doesn’t take hours of sweating away in a gym to reap benefits of cardiovascular exercise. In fact, just 20 - 30 minutes a day of activity that moderately increases the heart rate can help significantly in keeping the heart strong and healthy. For those who are willing to push a little harder, 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise is all it takes to reap the same rewards.
Drink Alcohol in Moderation
There are many studies which point to possible heart health benefits of certain types of alcohol such as red wine. While the jury is still out on much of this research, what we do know is that drinking excessively can lead to some serious heart health complications over time, no matter what type of alcohol is consumed. Such complications include raising fat levels in the blood, increasing blood pressure, contributing to the development of diabetes and, in extreme cases of binge drinking, arrythmia or stroke. By simply drinking in moderation, such problems can be avoided. For men, this means no more than 1 to 2 drinks per day and no more than one drink per day for women.
Quit Smoking for Heart Health
This may be the most difficult goal to reach on this list, but it is also the most important. The ill health effects of smoking are seemingly limitless, and the consequences for the heart are often severe. Cigarette smoke damages the body’s blood vessels, contributing to plaque buildup, stroke, heart attack, and peripheral artery disease. Fortunately, the simple act of quitting can help reverse much of this damage. In fact, within 24 hours of their last cigarette, a smoker’s risk for heart attack begins to drop.
Of course, we understand that giving up smoking is far from a simple feat. That’s why Cardiovascular Institute of the South has resources available to help through the Commit to Quit program. Likewise, our physicians and staff are available to help with all aspects of your heart health, from screenings to cardiovascular procedures. To learn more about how the CIS team can help keep your heart healthy in the new year, contact our offices today.