The month of February is known as American Heart Month, a federally designated event. Throughout the month, activities are designed to bring awareness to good heart/ good health practices. According to the American Heart Association, though, heart disease is not limited to a certain country: “…it’s important to realize that cardiovascular disease knows no borders. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the leading global cause of death with more than 17.9 million deaths each year”. The presence of uncontrolled diabetes can adversely affect existing heart disease, and in itself, is a risk factor for both heart disease and stroke. So, what can we do to improve our heart health, overall health and well-being?
First and foremost, early detection and diagnosis of diabetes (as well as heart disease) is paramount to taking control of the situation. Knowledge is power, so work with your medical care team to decide on your best plan of care and how to achieve your health goals in the safest manner possible.
A heart healthy diet consists of a focus on healthy portions of high nutrient foods. Limiting sodium/salt intake to under 2300mg/daily lowers the risk of high blood pressure. Smoking cessation also lowers blood pressure, improving overall heart function. Daily exercise totally 150 minutes a week has shown to lower weight, blood pressure, and stress levels. These “exercise” requirements can include any physical activity- walking, bike riding, swimming, for example. Simply choose an activity, start gradually and build momentum, bring a friend along for support and encouragement, and reap the benefits. Track your activities on a calendar, or journal, and set goals with rewards. You are doing this as a gift to yourself.
Medications prescribed for any chronic health conditions should be taken as directed. Any concerns you have about your medications- financial issues, drug interactions, or side effects- should be discussed openly. Please be advised that as you become healthier (losing weight, stopping smoking, eating a better diet, and even getting proper sleep) you may be able to reduce (or even stop completely) some of your routine medications. Many people have done so and report huge cost savings in addition to their overall health improvements.
February is American Heart Month, and also includes Valentines Day, where we profess our love to a never-ending list of family and friends. This year, put yourself at the top of the list.