February is coming to a close and that means the month acknowledged as Heart Health Month is, too. But seeing as though heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and the cause of one in four deaths, we’re invested in ways you can create a heart-healthy life every day of the year.
That’s why Angie — one of the Everlywell in-house Registered Nurses with experience in public health and preventive care — broke down simple and accessible ways to live a more heart-healthy lifestyle. Here’s what she had to say:
Adapt a mindset of moving more and sitting less! According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, it’s recommended that adults get at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. It also suggests working in muscle-strengthening activities, like resistance or strength training, at least two days a week.
Studies show that even light-intensity activity can offset some of the risks of being sedentary and introducing more movement to your day can lessen the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.2 Being physically active can also help with management of existing health conditions, like type diabetes.
It’s recommended that most adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night but in reality, most people aren’t. What many folks may not know is that sleep is thought to play an important role in maintaining overall heart health: Studies show short sleep duration, or even poor sleep quality, to be associated with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and atherosclerosis. Additionally, the risk of having a cardiovascular event increases for those who consistently don’t get enough sleep.
The good news is that getting in the habit of practicing good sleep hygiene can start as soon as tonight. By making simple adjustments — such as turning off screens 1-2 hours prior to bedtime, having a more consistent sleep schedule, and avoiding caffeine before bed — you may be able to achieve a better night’s rest.
Maintaining a healthy diet can help lower the risk of developing heart disease. By focusing on plenty of whole foods versus highly-processed foods, getting your fruits and vegetables, choosing whole grains versus refined grains, and consuming healthy sources of protein such as legumes, nuts, fish, and lower-fat dairy products, you can create heart-healthy diet patterns. Keep in mind it’s suggested to limit added sugars, salt, alcohol, and highly-processed foods as much as possible.
Not only does smoking cigarettes cause a number of different health problems, including permanent damage to the heart and blood vessels — it’s a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular complications. Of course, the best thing to do for your health is to never start smoking. But if you’re someone who already does smoke, the next best thing would be to quit as soon as possible because it’s been found that positive changes occur in the body almost immediately after a smoker quits. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about quitting, so they can help support you in doing so.
Stress — and the way in which we manage stress — can impact many aspects of our health, including our heart. The impact of stress on our heart health can be both direct and indirect. Directly, long-term stress may increase blood pressure that can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular complications, like heart attack and stroke. Indirectly, stress can make us more likely to make poor health decisions including overeating, smoking, and being sedentary, all of which can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Fortunately, some of the best ways to manage stress also help contribute to your overall heart health. Exercising regularly and getting enough sleep each night — both mentioned above — are actionable ways to alleviate stress. Additionally, spending time with loved ones, decompressing, and even meditating can be useful tools in balancing life when things get tough.
Sleep and stress are important factors in your overall health and wellness, including your heart health. That’s why Everlywell wants to support you in getting your best sleep yet. If you're having trouble sleeping, or managing your stress, and think that it could be affecting you physically, our at-home Sleep & Stress test may be the key. By measuring your critical sleep and stress hormones, the test can help identify abnormalities in daily fluctuations that may be influencing your ability to get a restful night's sleep. Your results will give you actionable tips to improve your sleep hygiene, manage stress, and maintain normal levels of these hormones.
1. Heart Disease Facts. CDC. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.
2. Top 10 Things to Know About the Second Edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Health.gov. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.
3. How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? Sleep Foundation. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.
4. Sleep plays an important role in heart health. The American Heart Association. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.
5. The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. The American Heart Association. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.
6. How Smoking Affects Heart Health. FDA. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.
7. Stress and Heart Health. The American Heart Association. URL. Accessed February 15, 2022.