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Happy Heart Month!

February is American Heart Month. How healthy is your heart? What can you do to ensure good heart health? Well, read on.

Each year, the American Heart Association (AHA), the National Institute for Health (NIH), and other government agencies compose a document with current statistics on heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular risk factors. In this document, they state that cardiovascular disease is a tremendous health and economic burden in the United States, as well as around the world. They also document seven approaches to keeping your heart healthy. The AHA's My Life Check - Life's Simple 7 includes:

1. Be Active - Adults 60+ years of age who are physically active are at a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality by 25-40%. However, only one in five adults and teens gets enough exercise to maintain good health. The AHA recommends at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, preferably spread throughout the week. The AHA also recommends moderate to high-intensity muscle strengthening, such as resistance weights, on at least two days per week. In its article "The Yoga-Heart Connection", John Hopkins recommends yoga for heart health. They've found that the calming exercise of yoga is good for the heart. Yoga benefits the heart by relaxing the body and mind, because emotional stress can cause physical effects. Hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, are released when we're stressed. These hormones narrow the arteries and increase blood pressure. Yoga's deep breathing and mental focus can offset stress. John Hopkins also notes that the practice of yoga may help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels, as well as heart rate. This makes yoga a useful lifestyle intervention.

2. Keep a Healthy Weight - According to the AHA, between 2017 and 2018, the prevalence of obesity and severe obesity increased from 3.7-6.9% for males and 3.6-5.2% for females. Higher percentages were found among the 2-19-year-old age group.

3. Learn About Cholesterol - Total cholesterol should be <200 mg/dL. Have your cholesterol checked yearly. If you follow the other guidelines mentioned here, such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercise, etc., your cholesterol levels should improve.

4. Do Not Smoke or use Smokeless Tobacco - Over the past 30 years, cigarette smoking has decreased. However, over the past nine years, there's been a sharp increase in the use of electronic cigarettes. In fact, electronic cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among middle and high-school students.

5. Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet - Daily intake of five servings of fruit and vegetables has been associated with 13% lower total mortality, 12% lower cardio disease, 10% lower cancer mortality, and 35% lower respiratory disease mortality. Add any of these foods to your diet on a daily basis: berries, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, seeds, almonds, edamame, green tea, garlic, tomatoes, beans, avocados, walnuts, olive oil, and dark chocolate. An anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean Diet, is highly recommended by many heart doctors for heart health. See my article on chronic inflammation at

6. Keep Blood Pressure Healthy - Between 2009 and 2019, the number of deaths caused by high blood pressure rose 65.3%. Healthy blood pressure for adults is 120/80 or below.

7. Learn About Blood Sugar and Diabetes - Between 2015 and 2018, 28.2 million adults had been diagnosed with diabetes, 9.8 million adults had undiagnosed diabetes, and 113.6 million adults has prediabetes. Long-term high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart. So, keep this in check.

Follow these steps for a happy and healthy heart.


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