February is American Heart Month, and as we dedicate special attention to our hearts, it is vital to note that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. Staying heart healthy is essential to keeping high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease at bay. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests taking precautionary steps to maintain a healthy heart and live longer.
If you already have high blood pressure, are obese, have prediabetes, diabetes, high cholesterol, or smoke, it is imperative to control those conditions through proper nutrition, regular exercise, and abstinence. People with a family history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, those who smoke, women who endure the pregnancy complications of preeclampsia, and individuals over the age of 45 are at an increased risk of developing heart disease.
Limit high-sodium foods, solid fats, saturated and trans-fatty acids, cholesterol, added sugars, and alcohol. Instead, welcome the intake of more whole (unprocessed) vegetables and fruits, fish, eggs, lean meat, select nuts and seeds, soy products, and oils derived from olives, canola, and soybeans. Healthy fats found in salmon, trout, avocado, nuts, tofu, and seed butter are essential to maintaining heart health. Limiting stress is also beneficial.
Restorative sleep is an often-overlooked factor when considering heart health. Adults over 18 need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Getting enough sleep helps regulate the hormone levels that make us feel hungry and full. Sleep also contributes to immune health as well as growth and development.
The global, multi-dimensional, ongoing experience of COVID makes heart health acutely relevant. Although COVID primarily affects the lungs, the virus prevents oxygen from getting to the heart, causing tissue damage. Inflammation increases in response to the virus. Within some people, inflammation can become excessive, causing further heart damage. When there is disruption among the electrical signals that help the heart to beat correctly, irregular beating of the heart results. COVID can affect heart cells and implement the formation of blood clots within people who have been or are seriously ill.