Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. Stress, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, smoking and congenital heart defects are all major factors. Heart disease is preventable for most people if you stick to a healthy lifestyle. This February during American Heart Month, let’s get your heart in the best shape by following seven easy tips.
Be good to yourself – and your heart!
- When you eat, make it count. A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease. Start adding healthier items to your diet to create nutrient-dense, heart-healthy meals and decrease processed or “empty” calories, nutrient-poor foods and beverages. Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups.
- Just the right amount. When eating, turn off the TV, sit down and enjoy your meal. Eating while working, watching TV or on your phone can cause you to overeat. Obesity is one of the most common risk factors leading to chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure. The good news is that each of us can take steps to reach and/or maintain a healthy weight.
- Spice it up. Ramp up the flavor of foods with herbs and spices instead of blood-pressure-boosting salt and choose foods that contain less sodium.
- You are sweet enough. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the main source of added sugars in people’s diets. These beverages contribute calories, but provide no nutrients. When you’re thirsty choose water or other no calories beverage such as unsweetened tea or fruit-infused water. If you do choose a sweetened beverage make sure you read the label, added sugar is now on the nutrition facts label. Added sugars should not be more than 10% of your daily calories and children under two are recommended to not consume any added sugar.
- Know your risky behaviors. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means for women, no more than one drink per day, and for men, no more than two drinks per day. For your heart, there is no healthy side of using any tobacco or nicotine products and avoid secondhand smoke or vapor.
- Find your groove. We all have to start somewhere. The benefits of regular physical activity are undeniable and even small bouts can add up to big benefits. Today is the day you can begin to make your heart a priority by finding your groove –take a quick walk around the block or break into a dance to a few of your favorite songs.
- The head-heart connection. Stress, depression and anxiety can influence your mood, but they could also influence the health of your heart. Be sure to talk with your health professionals because mental illness is treatable, and recovery is possible. Learn about the County’s Behavioral Health Services.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have delayed or avoided going to hospitals for heart attacks and strokes – leading to poorer health conditions. Sacramento County Public Health
would like to remind people that hospitals are the safest place to go when you have symptoms and care should not be delayed. The COVID-19 lockdown has also led to more people engaging in unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, such as eating poorly, drinking more alcohol and limiting physical activity. These behaviors can contribute to heart disease.
Stress due to the pandemic may already be affecting our heart health. Stress directly activates our sympathetic nervous system that can elevate blood pressure and blood sugar. Stress can disrupt our sleep and can lead us to make unhealthy food choices as we seek comfort foods.
Stress cardiomyopathy, also called broken-heart syndrome can be triggered by the loss of a loved one, divorce or interpersonal conflict, a global pandemic like COVID-19 and natural disasters. Cases of stress cardiomyopathy have seen a significant rise during COVID-19 but fortunately, heart function typically recovers over one to two weeks. However, affected patients do have an increased risk of recurrence.
Sacramento County Public Health encourages individuals and families to make healthy choices and engage in managing health conditions. A few small changes that can have a big impact on your heart over time!
“Heart disease still happens even in the time of COVID-19, if you wait a year or two to see a doctor for a heart concern, things may be a lot farther along and less treatable,” said Sacramento County Public Health Officer, Dr. Kasirye. “Live a heart-healthy lifestyle by making healthier food and beverage choices, being active, reducing stress, not smoking, getting enough sleep, and meeting with your doctor on a regular basis.”
County Public Health continuously works to educate the public about the importance of good nutrition and how it can affect health. A part of that work includes the Sacramento County Obesity Prevention Program
, which is implemented in a variety of community settings to bring nutrition education and physical activity programs to places people live, play, learn and shop. Public Health is also part of the Design 4 Active Sacramento team, whose goal is to improve public health by shaping the built environment to support walking, biking and other healthy activities.