You probably already know Valentine’s Day is coming up, but did you know February is Heart Health Month? So, instead of candy, we’re giving you these bite-sized tips to help you show your heart some love.
1. Heart Disease Runs in Families.
To some degree, heart disease is thought to be ‘hereditary’ or ‘genetic:’ that is, it can be passed from one generation to another through the genes. However, having the genes for it doesn’t mean you are absolutely certain to develop heart disease: it just means you’re more at risk.
2. But There’s a Lot You Can Do to Prevent It.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that about 80% of all heart disease deaths could have been prevented by following steps like eating a healthy diet, exercising, quitting smoking, and having regular health screenings.
3. All Fats Aren’t Created Equal.
Most of us have been trained to believe that all fats are bad. However, some sources of fat are actually good for you and may reduce your risk for heart disease.
- Unsaturated fats are the good kind of fat, and they’re found in foods like avocados, nuts like almonds and walnuts, olive and canola oils, fish, and more. Enjoy in moderation.
- Then there are saturated fats (found in whole milk products, red meat, skin-on chicken, among others) which should be limited to occasional eating; and trans fats, which should be avoided when possible as they increase both your cholesterol level and heart disease risk. They’re found in processed foods like fries, cakes and cookies, microwave popcorn, and frozen pizza.
4. Your Belly Could Tell You Your Risk.
If you have a lot of fat around your middle or belly, compared to your hips, you may be more likely to have heart disease (think being apple-shaped rather than pear-shaped.) One recent study found that women who carried their fat around their middles were twice as likely to have heart problems, including heart attacks. Fortunately, losing even a little weight can make a difference for your heart.
5. Petting Puppies is Good for You.
Science can’t say for sure that stress causes heart disease, but stress leads to the factors that can put you at risk for heart disease or make your health worse (such as high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers, to name a few). Whatever you can do to manage your stress is good, and doctors agree that having a pet, and even just stroking an animal, can help. In fact, one study showed that dog owners who’d had heart attacks or heart problems had better health outcomes than those who didn’t have pets.
6. There’s a Connection Between Your Teeth and Your Heart Health.
A good oral hygiene routine is important for your overall health and well-being, not to mention your confidence. Not brushing and flossing can lead to bacteria, inflammation, and plaque, which has been linked to heart attacks.
7. The Warning Signs of a Heart Attack.
Heart attack symptoms can vary from person to person, but the signs usually include:
- Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
- Sudden lightheadedness or dizziness
8. One Heart Attack Leads to Another.
Those who’ve had heart attacks are four times more likely to suffer a fatal cardiac event, compared to those who haven’t.
9. You Can Get Your Numbers Checked at No Cost.
Getting your blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol numbers checked are all considered essential health benefits and therefore, your medical plan will cover a trip to the doctor at no charge to you.