Hands representing a healthy heart during American Heart Month

Improve Your Heart Health this American Heart Month

Every February since 1963, the United States celebrates American Heart Month to drive awareness about the importance of maintaining a strong, healthy heart. Your heart is the hardest-working muscle in your body, so it’s vital that you take the proper steps to keep it in the best condition possible as you age.

Just like the rest of the body, aging can bring changes to how well your heart functions. Even the healthiest individual may experience heart-related issues such as slower or irregular heart rate, heart walls thickening, less-efficient pumping of the blood, or overall weakening of the muscle. Over time, if your heart is not able to pump blood as it should or the heart grows weaker, you become more at risk for heart disease.

The Facts about Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. In fact, according to the CDC, every year over 610,000 people die of heart disease; that’s one in four people. In the U.S., the most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack.

Heart disease can strike anyone, no matter your background. However, certain individuals may be more at risk than others. For example, those who are overweight, have high blood pressure or diabetes, and smokers.

Common Symptoms of Heart Disease

While the symptoms of heart disease depend on which form you have, there are some common warning signs. Being able to recognize these symptoms ensures you’ll receive a prompt diagnosis and medical treatment. The most common symptoms of heart disease include:

  • Angina, or chest pain and discomfort – this can often be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate or heart palpitations
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea and weakness
  • Pain in the jaw or throat
  • Feelings of fatigue or exhaustion

5 Tips for Better Heart Health

By making healthy lifestyle adjustments, it’s possible to prevent or treat many forms of heart disease. Additionally, you should be aware of the risk factors for heart disease, which include family history, sex, and ethnicity.

Here are five tips to improve your heart health this American Heart Month and beyond:

  1. Make a healthy lifestyle your top priority. It’s time to get physical! Even if you haven’t been the most active person lately, it’s important to add some daily exercise into your routine. Experts recommend getting your heart rate up for 30 minutes every day. Additionally, cut out sugary, processed foods and reach for fruits, veggies and whole grains.
  2. Cut out bad habits. It’s also time to ditch unhealthy habits like smoking or excessive consumption of alcohol. Studies show that after just one year of quitting smoking your risk for heart disease is cut in half, so talk to your physician about the cessation options available.
  3. Take the proper medications as needed. Taking any medications your physician prescribed for conditions like high cholesterol or high blood pressure is key to improving your heart health and decreasing your risk for heart disease. Just be sure to mention if you’re noticing any side effects, and schedule regular follow-up appointments to keep your heart properly monitored.
  4. Manage your stress levels. Find ways to relax and let go of the day’s stresses, whether you take a walk, go to a yoga class or settle in with a good book in the evening. It’s important to lower your stress levels as much as possible, as stress increases adrenaline in your body which can overwork your heart.
  5. Enjoy quality sleep. Sleep is essential to all aspects of a vibrant lifestyle, including a healthy heart! Your body has a chance to shut down and recover while you sleep, and experts recommend you get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. Need another incentive to get a good night’s sleep? Research shows that people who don’t get enough sleep are more than twice as likely as those who do to die of heart disease.

Keep Your Heart Healthy at Immanuel Lutheran Communities

At Immanuel Lutheran Communities, improving and maintaining all aspects of your health is top priority. Residents have access to a variety of wellness opportunities designed to improve your health in all six dimensions. For your physical health, you’ll enjoy a variety of fitness options that appeal to all interests, from strength and balance fitness classes to a relaxing yoga class. Contact us to learn more about the independent living options offered at our Kalispell retirement community located in the beautiful Flathead Valley.