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National Heart Health Month: Setting Goals for the Year Ahead

National Heart Health Month: Setting Goals for the Year Ahead

Posted by on Feb 14th 2023

February is National Heart Health Month. With heart disease rates on the rise, it's increasingly important to help raise awareness about the importance of caring for your heart. Many Americans have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which if left untreated may cause heart attacks, strokes, or long-term high blood pressure. It’s time to take charge of our vascular health while reminding your loved ones to do the same.

Understanding Heart Health

According to the CDC, heart disease is the main cause of death for both men and women in the United States. In fact, one person dies every 34 seconds from it. That’s about 1 in 5 deaths in the country.

Some of the greatest risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, unhealthy diet, excessive alcohol use, and neglecting physical activities.

Luckily, many of the risk factors can be helped through lifestyle changes. It’s important to get clear about your habits and make a change as soon as possible. You’ll also want to make sure you’re getting regular check-ups to help detect problems before they get bigger.

Setting Heart-Healthy Goals

Diet and nutrition play a large role in the health of your heart. Whether it’s at home or in a restaurant, start making heart-healthy choices like adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-quality protein-rich foods. You may also benefit from limiting sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar.

Another controllable key component is physical movement. The ideal exercise will oscillate from 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activities, 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity workouts, or a combination of the two. Don’t worry about hitting the ground running. Any physical movement is better than none. Try to build up your workouts until you reach your target.

Plus, movements can help you reduce stress, which is another risk factor for heart disease. If you experience a lot of stress, you may want to consider talking to a mental health professional, trying regular meditation or other relaxation techniques, and making sure you find a support system for your needs.

Routine checkups with your doctor can help you monitor your personal risk factors and track your progress. Don’t try to go it alone, and most of all, give yourself patience when beginning new habits. Try to aim for consistency over perfection.

Overcoming Barriers with Heart Health

Common obstacles you may confront when changing your lifestyles are feeling like you have a lack of time, feeling alone, having low motivation, financial burdens, and difficult access to services. However, there are potential solutions to each of these.

If your exercise goals seem impossible with a busy schedule, it may be time to get creative. Monitor your daily life and observe 30-minute increments that you spend on your phone or watching tv and try to switch them out for a small workout. You can also work out while you do your favorite activities. Find ways to make it enjoyable by jogging in place while watching your favorite show or biking to your favorite cafe once a week instead of driving.

You can also try inviting friends and family to come to work out with you, whether it’s a class or a walk in the park. The routine and social connection can boost overall morale and motivation.

If you’re struggling to pay for a gym membership, try to search for low-cost alternatives like community and park recreation programs, worksite programs, or even online video courses.

For any other concerns or obstacles, speak with your doctor. They may be able to help you overcome barriers and offer personalized solutions.

Cardiovascular health problems affect a large portion of the population, but with consistent adjustments to your routine, you can help improve your outcomes and feel better.

Make a list of your top goals to change this year and write down your progress to stay motivated. No matter where you’re starting from, remember each step you take is literally getting you a little bit closer to a healthy heart!