Did you know that February is American Heart Month? ABC Insurance Agencies is here to show you seven ways to love your heart better, so Louisiana residents can stay the happiest in the country by lowering their risk of heart disease. Even though heart disease is prominent in Louisiana, there are steps that anyone can take to reduce their risk and become healthier. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, or could use some extra vitamins and minerals in your diet, now is the perfect time to start giving your heart more love to live a healthier, happier life.

7 Ways to Boost Your Heart Health

1. Exercise Frequently

Living an active lifestyle is a critical component of having a healthy heart by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and risk of diabetes, ultimately decreasing your chance of heart disease. Mayo Clinic experts suggest exercising moderately for about thirty minutes on most days, which can include swimming, walking at a quick pace, or jumping rope. Keep in mind that other activities, like walking up flights of stairs, taking your pet on a walk, or household chores also count as aerobic activity.

You don’t need to schedule vigorous workouts every day to boost your heart health, but your body will reap additional benefits as you increase how often and how long you exercise. The American Heart Association recommends plenty of exercise options of varying intensities for children and adults alike.

2. Eat a Nutritious Diet

Your diet is one of the main areas of your life that you can control for a healthier heart. It is necessary for your body to absorb the right amounts of nutrients to keep your heart pumping as efficiently as possible. Nutrient-dense, heart-healthy foods are typically lower in calories and higher in protein and minerals. This can include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole Grains
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Low-Fat Dairy Products
  • Healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts, eggs)

Steer away from foods high in saturated fat and trans-fat, like red meat, fried foods, fast food, sweets, dairy products with full-fat, and palm oil. A good rule of thumb is to eat fewer foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients and more foods that are low in calories and high in nutrients.

3. Manage a Healthy Weight

Being overweight can significantly increase your risk of heart disease and other complications, such as diabetes, stroke, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. An easy way to check if you are overweight is to calculate your body mass index, or BMI, which is a combination of your height and weight that determines your body fat percentage. If your BMI is high, think about starting a new exercise regimen and incorporating healthier food choices into your diet. Setting weight loss goals can help you stay motivated to live a healthier lifestyle. Did you know that even lowering your weight by three to five percent can significantly improve your health and reduce your risk of heart disease?

4. Avoid Tobacco Products

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, cigarettes cause one in five deaths each year in the U.S., being the top preventable cause of death in the country. The harmful chemicals found in tobacco products, such as carbon monoxide, significantly impair the heart’s functionality, forcing it to work much harder, which can result in coronary heart disease and peripheral artery disease. No matter how much someone smokes, it is never safe, but thankfully, the risk of heart disease starts to decrease as soon as a smoker quits.

5. Obtain Adequate Sleep

If you don’t snooze, you lose. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Not getting enough sleep can harm your overall well-being by raising your blood pressure and increasing your risk of depression, obesity, and heart attack. Keep rest at the top of your priority list by implementing sleep hygiene into your daily routine:

  • Set a bedtime routine of going to sleep and waking up at the same times each day.
  • Keep a pleasant sleeping environment in your room with comfortable sleeping arrangements, darkness, and sound machines, like humidifiers or fans to help you relax.
  • Avoid caffeine in the evening.
  • Stay away from fattening foods before bed.

6. Prevent Stress

Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, damaged artery walls, and a weakened immune system. Instead of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms for stress, such as overeating or smoking, find ways to alleviate stress through relaxation techniques, such as exercise, laughter, and deep breathing, to significantly improve overall health.

7. Schedule Routine Health Screenings

High blood pressure or cholesterol levels can damage your blood vessels and heart, but you may not know if you have them without routine health screenings. Thankfully, each time you visit a doctor, your blood pressure is checked. If you stay healthy throughout the year, make sure to get an annual physical exam to see if you have any problems that should be addressed.

American Heart Month is the perfect time to assess your current lifestyle and implement changes to avoid heart disease risk factors. Now that you’re ready to live a heart-healthy lifestyle make sure that you have a reliable health insurance policy that will help pay for health screenings as recommended by your physician. Learn more about ABC’s health care options, and get a free health insurance quote today! Just call 800-708-0123click, or visit a friendly agent near you for more information.

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