Show Your Heart Some Love: 5 Ways to Protect Your Heart

February 22, 2019  |  Category: Articles

The theme of February is hearts, flowers, and love so it is no surprise that February is also American Heart Month. The goal of American Heart Month is to raise awareness about heart disease and to empower people to take steps to protect their hearts.

In the US, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death of both men and women. About a quarter of all deaths are related to heart disease each year1. Fortunately, no matter your age or family history, there are things you can do to protect your heart. In many cases, making a few small changes to your habits can lead to big results when it comes to your heart’s health.

Schedule Regular Check-Ups

Even if you feel perfectly healthy, it’s a good idea to start seeing a physician for regular preventative care check-ups. Establishing a relationship with a doctor means that you will have someone to turn to if you do have any heart-related or other medical problems in the future.

Depending on your age, your doctor will most likely recommend certain screenings to evaluate your overall health and the state of your heart2.  For example, your doctor will most likely take your blood pressure, monitor your weight and body mass index, and recommend cholesterol and blood sugar testing.

If any of your levels are higher than recommended, you can work with your doctor to put together a plan to lower your levels and protect your heart.

Know the Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

In the event of a heart attack, every second counts3. The sooner you get to a doctor or hospital for treatment, the better the outcome will be. So that you can get treatment ASAP (or get treatment for someone you know), it helps to know what the most common warning signs of a heart attack are:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain in the jaw, back, or neck
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the shoulder or arm
  • Nausea and vomiting or feeling lightheaded

The symptoms of a heart attack tend to be a bit different in men and women. While both men and women are likely to experience chest pain, women are also likely to have shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and pain in other areas of the body4.

If you or someone you know has signs of a heart attack, call 911 to get help right away.

Make Small Lifestyle Changes

Make Small Lifestyle Changes

Small changes to your lifestyle and habits can have a big effect on your heart health. Taking steps to be more active and to improve your diet can help to strengthen your heart. Here are a few small changes you could make:

  • Trade salt for spices.
  • Add a 10-minute walk to your day.
  • Lift hand weights while watching TV.
  • Add one serving of vegetables or fruit to each one of your meals.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Stop adding sugar to coffee or tea.
  • Trade sugary soda for sparkling water.
  • Find a hobby you love and do it more often.

Take Deep Breaths

Too much stress can be harmful for your heart. Finding ways to relax and limit stress can help immensely. In some cases, it helps to start small. When you feel stress creeping up on you, pause for a moment and take a deep breath.

Inhale through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, then exhale through your nose. Repeat as often as needed until you feel your pulse start to slow down and your stress start to melt away.

Protect Your Overall Health

Your body is a complex system and when one part of it isn’t doing well, other parts can be affected too. Fighting off certain infections can put extra strain on your heart. In some cases, there is a chance that infections will spread from one part of the body to the heart. For example, there seems to be a connection between gum disease and heart disease5.

In people who already have heart disease, an infection such as the flu or pneumonia can make the problem worse. To protect yourself against the flu, wash your hands regularly and get a flu shot. If you can’t get vaccinated, try to stay out of crowded areas and avoid anyone who has signs of illness6.

Your academic advisors, counselors, and tutors at AHU Online care about your whole health and are here to provide support and assistance, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Get in touch if you want to work with your Retention Specialist to establish a balanced plan to promote academic success and limited stress.

Notes:

  1. “Heart Disease Facts,” Centers for Disease Control, last reviewed November 28, 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm.
  2. “How to Help Prevent Heart Disease At Any Age,” American Heart Association, last reviewed April 1, 2015, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/how-to-help-prevent-heart-disease-at-any-age.
  3. “Warning Signs of a Heart Attack,” American Heart Association, last updated January 11, 2018, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofa%20HeartAttack/Warning-Signs-of-a-Heart-Attack_UCM_002039_Article.jsp#.XGXkTOHYqzw
  4. “Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms,” Centers for Disease Control, last reviewed August 5, 2015, https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/signs_symptoms.htm.
  5. “Gum disease and the connection to heart disease,” Harvard Health Publishing, published April 2018, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/gum-disease-and-the-connection-to-heart-disease

6. “Flu and Pneumonia Prevention,” American Heart Association, last reviewed July 31, 2015, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/flu-and-pneumonia-prevention