February is American Heart Month
This month is American Heart Month, sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA).
While I think the AHA is a little too focused on meeting targets like cholesterol level and blood pressure (which promotes overdiagnosis and overtreatment), their website has lots of information about keeping your heart healthy.
The most effective things we can do to protect our hearts (and brains) are to exercise regularly and eat a nutritious, calorie-appropriate diet.
I always advocate for lifestyle changes rather than prescription meds, and a healthy lifestyle is something I post about frequently.
Here are a few of my tips for keeping your heart healthy.
A recent study revealed the importance of exercise and recommended 30 minutes a day of “challenging” exercise. That is, get your heart rate up high enough that you’re sweating and short of breath.
Frequent exercise is good for our brains, too.
Eat healthy foods
In addition to exercise, a healthy diet can help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol level, lower your blood pressure and stabilize your blood sugar level.
Be informed about prescription medications
Statins are one of the most prescribed drugs in America. But keep in mind that there are two schools of thought about them. Some researchers and physicians think statins are so great they should be in the drinking water.
Others think statin research is controlled by Big Pharma and the new, lower cholesterol targets are just a way to grab more money.
I think the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. While some patients may definitely benefit from statins, they are still a drug and need to be used intelligently and cautiously.
I always advise asking lots of questions before filling any prescription.
Blood pressure is another measurement where the target has been getting lower and lower. Many physicians think these new targets are too low, especially in the elderly, and worry too many patients are being diagnosed with high blood pressure or “pre-hypertension” and given prescription meds they don’t really need.
Again, always have a discussion with your care provider about these meds so you really understand why you need them (if you do), and what the risks and benefits will be. And ask about cost, or you may be in for a shock at the pharmacy counter.
If the worst happens…
Learn CPR! It’s not quite the life saving procedure it’s made out to be on TV shows, but it’s a great skill to know “just in case.”
Recognizing when someone is having a heart attack or stroke and calling 911 can significantly improve their chances of survival.
It’s so important to start taking care of our hearts at a young age; parents, teach your children well!
But it’s never too late to start keeping your heart healthy ❤