When we think of February, we often think of hearts because of Valentine’s Day. It’s the holiday of love, after all! But did you know there’s another great reason to celebrate hearts this month? February is also recognized as American Heart Month, and it’s a perfect opportunity to learn more about heart health and take steps to prevent heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of all U.S. adults are affected by some type of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., claiming more lives each year than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined.
The good news is, there are many lifestyle changes you can take to lower your risk of heart disease and improve your heart health. In honor of American Heart Month, we’re sharing four tips to help you show more love to your heart:
Get enough sleep
Adults need 7–8 hours of quality, restful sleep each night, but research shows that more than one-third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation is linked to health issues like high blood pressure, stress, obesity, and diabetes, all of which can raise the risk of heart disease. To get a more restful night’s sleep, try sticking to a scheduled bedtime and establishing a calming nightly routine. If you still have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Walk your way to better heart health
Walking is a wonderful form of exercise, no matter your age. Spending just 15 minutes walking per day is enough to get your blood moving and protect your heart. Most senior living communities have dedicated fitness centers with treadmills as well as outdoor walking trails for residents to enjoy. Joining a walking club is another great way to “get your steps in” while socializing with friends.
Eat a balanced, colorful diet
The American Heart Association recommends eating eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day to control your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Some of the top heart-healthy foods include blueberries, avocado, sweet potatoes, and dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale. Here’s a tip: the more colorful fruits and veggies on your plate, the better! Make sure every meal has a variety of colors to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
Believe it or not, belly laughs can be good for your heart, too! Recent studies suggest that laughter may play a role in improving heart health, helping to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. When you laugh, it triggers chemical responses in the brain that lead to feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Laughter also causes the arteries to expand and increase blood flow. When you’re done laughing, you may take deeper breaths, which sends even more oxygenated blood through your body and promotes relaxation.
Heart health is important for everyone—at every age. While adults over 65 face a higher risk of heart disease than younger people, getting older doesn’t mean you can’t still take steps to have a healthy heart. In addition to maintaining an active, balanced lifestyle, be sure to schedule regular checkups with your doctor and work with your health care team to detect or manage conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It’s never too late to show your heart some love and join the fight against heart disease!