Your heart works for you day and night, all year round. But since February is American Heart Month, it’s a great time to think about your heart health habits — and ways to improve them. Try these simple, easy-to-adopt tips and advice from Geisinger cardiologist George Ruiz, MD. With just one or two a week, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier heart.
Advice from Dr. Ruiz on maintaining your heart health.
Step away from the salt. Use other seasonings and herbs as salt substitutes, steer clear of high-sodium processed and fast foods and retrain your taste buds to savor healthier options.
Opt for a flu shot. If you have heart disease, catching the flu is risky. The right vaccinations for your age — including the flu shot — help you avoid illnesses that can worsen your condition.
Take your medicine. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking your medications, and don’t take any that have been prescribed to someone else.
Skip the elevator. Take the stairs instead of the elevator to build exercise into your day-to-day routine and keep your heart and muscles working.
Move more often. Exercise for 30 minutes a day to keep your heart strong and healthy. It doesn't have to be high-intensity — it could be as simple as walking.
Limit alcohol consumption to one to two beverages a day to keep your heart, vascular system and liver working at their peak.
Manage that AFib. AFib is an abnormal heart rhythm that's linked to an increased risk of stroke. Be sure to talk to a doc if you have AFib — there are new ways to reduce the health risks with medication or devices.
Have your blood pressure checked regularly at your doctor’s office. High blood pressure can damage arteries, but medications help keep it in a healthy range.
Know your cholesterol numbers. A simple blood test can tell you your cholesterol levels. Your doctor will analyze your risk profile and decide if medication is needed to protect your arteries.
Clear the air. Quitting smoking is the best way to improve your health. You’ll drive down your risk for cardiovascular disease (especially if you have chronic health conditions).
Watch your weight. Staying close to an ideal body weight reduces stress on your heart and joints and helps you stay healthier overall.
Get hooked on fish. Choose fish for lunch or dinner instead of red meat. It’s lower in the saturated fats that clog arteries.
Un-friend frying. Making the right choices in both food selection and preparation is crucial to maintaining a healthy diet. While fried foods can be delicious, they're less healthy than foods prepared in other ways, such as baking.
Tune up your snacks. Stock the kitchen with healthy choices (think fruit or nuts) to grab when you have the urge to snack. They’ll fill you up while keeping your energy levels high.
Take a history lesson. Find out if heart disease runs in your family — and if so, be sure to tell your healthcare provider. This information can influence prevention measures and treatment.
Snag some shut-eye. Shoot for seven to eight hours of sleep every night, and set a specific time to go to bed. Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep.
This story originally appeared in PA Health, our quarterly full-color magazine filled with wellness tips, inspiring stories and more.
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