Stay Heart Smart: Tips to Keep Your Ticker Healthy
February may be American Heart Month, but any time is a great time to be smart about your heart health. While COVID-19 has certainly been top of mind for many people this past year (and rightfully so), heart disease still remains a leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic might have changed the way we go about our day-to-day activities, and may even be a contributor to added stress on the heart, but there are still plenty of ways to focus on your heart health. Simple steps you can take include understanding your risk for heart disease, making dietary and lifestyle changes, and getting support to help you stay on track.
So, check out these tips and celebrate Valentine’s Day – and every day – with a healthy heart.
Understand your heart risk
The best first step to help keep you heart healthy is to schedule an annual wellness visit with your primary doctor to assess your health risks. At this appointment, your doctor might gather some basic information to see whether you have an increased risk for heart disease, such as:
- Lifestyle habits
- Height and weight
- Family history
Then, your doctor might take preventive measures for certain conditions as well as check your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and body mass index (BMI).
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, your primary doctor might want to schedule an initial consult virtually in order to minimize your risk of exposure to the virus. Alternatively, depending on your Blue Shield plan, you might use a virtual service like Teladoc or Heal™.
Whether virtual or in person, your doctor is your best ally to help you reach your goals for getting heart smart.
Make heart-smart dietary and lifestyle changes
Based on the conversation with your doctor, your doctor might make some suggestions for how to minimize your risk of heart disease. Dietary changes might include:
- Increasing your consumption of heart-healthy foods, such as:
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean protein
- Nuts and legumes
- Monounsaturated fats
- Limiting certain foods, such as:
- Added sugars
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
In addition to changes in your diet, your doctor might recommend lifestyle changes that could also keep you heart smart. These might include:
- Increasing physical activity
- Managing stress
- Getting quality sleep
- Quitting smoking
Remember: your doctor is a great resource to help you create a heart healthy plan. Speak with your doctor before making major changes to your diet or lifestyle.
Stay on track for a healthy heart
So, you’ve taken the first steps: you’ve talked with your doctor and you’ve created a plan. Now it’s time to take action! The hardest part of healthy goals is actually sticking with them. That’s why it’s best to prepare for roadblocks before they steer you off course.
A few ways to stay on track include:
- Creating a list of goals for 2021 and sticking them to your refrigerator door
- Working with your medical team to be sure your changes are keeping you on track
- Getting friends and family involved as "accountability buddies"
You might also use virtual programs offered by Blue Shield, such as Wellvolution®, offered at no additional cost. Wellvolution provides online support to help you achieve your health goals like preventing or reversing chronic disease, quitting smoking, managing stress, or losing weight. Depending on your plan, Blue Shield also offers a variety of programs to help you stay healthy, such as discounts on alternative care, healthy food, or fitness memberships.
No matter what you’ve been going through these past 12 months, we could all take a little time to care for our hearts. Your loved ones will thank you and your body will, too.