February is American Heart Month which is a great time to make some healthy changes to take care of your heart. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, it is important that everyone follow some simple tips to protect their heart. It’s as easy as the ABCS.
A. Aspirin – Taking a daily aspirin can decrease the risk of heart disease. Aspirin works by decreasing your body’s ability to form clots. This prevents clots from forming in your blood vessels that could lead to a heart attack or stroke. Its benefits do come with some risk; aspirin therapy is not indicated for everyone, so ask your healthcare provider if taking aspirin is right for you.
B. Blood pressure control – Blood pressure control is very important to maintaining a healthy heart. Check with your healthcare provider to find out what your goal blood pressure should be. High blood pressure can cause added stress on your heart that can lead to heart failure. Controlling blood pressure also helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Checking your blood pressure daily to see if it is under control can help manage your heart health. Simple diet changes such as reducing your daily salt intake to less than 1.5 grams per day can also decrease your blood pressure. Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day is another lifestyle change with tremendous benefits to both you and your heart. So check your blood pressure, eat healthy, get some exercise, and take charge of your blood pressure.
C. Cholesterol management – High cholesterol can lead to plaque build-up in your blood vessel that can decrease the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to important parts of your body such as your brain and heart. One in six Americans have high cholesterol, a statistic that directly relates to the number of deaths associated with heart disease every year. Not all cholesterol is bad though. HDL is the “good” cholesterol that helps protect your blood vessels, while LDL is the “bad” cholesterol that causes plaque build-up in the vessels. Decreasing fatty foods such as fried and creamy foods can help decrease bad cholesterol. Just like for improving blood pressure, exercising 30 minutes a day can increase your good cholesterol.
S. Smoking Cessation – Smoking causes blood vessels to narrow and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke 2 to 4 times. Smoking also decrease the circulation of blood throughout your body. This leads to an increase in blood pressure and makes it easier for blood clots to form. There are many resources to help quit smoking. Your healthcare provider can talk to you about the various medication therapies and counseling programs available to you.
Understanding the ABCS to a healthy heart can aid you in reducing your risk of heart disease. Talk to your healthcare provider about the different ways to protect your heart. So this February in honor of American Heart Month, make a pledge to protect your heart!