Your heart is the most important muscle in your body, so celebrate American Heart Month by stepping up your heart-health game by improving your lifestyle choices.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure
About 47% of American adults have high blood pressure or hypertension. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Risk factors for high blood pressure include:
- Family history
- Preexisting conditions like diabetes, heart defects and kidney disorders
Check your blood pressure twice a day – in the morning and evening – to get an accurate assessment. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Prepare to take your blood pressure. That means no stimulants, like caffeine or cigarettes, within 30 minutes of taking your measurements. You should also wait 30 minutes after eating before checking your levels.
- Sit with your back straight, feet on the floor, and one arm elevated to heart level on a countertop or table.
- Apply a blood pressure cuff above your elbow toward the middle of your upper arm. Your arm should be supported and relaxed with your palm facing up.
- Rest in this position for five minutes before measuring your blood pressure. Take two to three measurements one minute apart.
- Log your results for later reference.
Increase Physical Activity
A fitness routine lowers your risk of developing high blood pressure. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or 21 minutes a day. A heart-healthy exercise plan includes aerobic activity and strength training.
Aerobics raise your heart rate and improve circulation. Moderate aerobic exercises for seniors include brisk walks, swimming, dancing and gardening. More intense options are jogging, swimming laps, pedaling a stationary bike or hiking.
Strength training should be added to your exercise plan at least twice a week to promote good cholesterol. Light free weights and resistance bands can help you strengthen your muscles and improve your endurance.
Here are some suggestions:
- Chair squats
- Front and side leg lifts
- Knee lifts
- Bicep curls and tricep extensions
- Wall pushups
- Chest squeezes with a medicine ball
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess weight can put unnecessary strain on your heart. It also increases your risk for heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes, which all contribute to poor heart health.
Maintaining an appropriate weight will improve your circulation and body fluid levels. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. That means eating foods that are rich in nutrients and low in calories.
Processed foods and red meat aren’t the best options if you’re trying to boost your heart health. Avoid excessive amounts of sodium and refined sugar, too.
Here are some heart-healthy foods to include in your diet:
- Fatty fish like salmon and tuna
- Nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, chia seeds and sunflower seeds
- Beans and legumes
- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
- Whole grains
- Leafy greens such as spinach and kale