Ideas contributed by Mackenzie Kays, BS, Healthcare Home Care Coordinator at Tri-County Mental Health Services

According to, heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, taking the lives of 2,200 people each day. Fortunately, while genetic factors are involved, 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases may be preventable with proper education and behavior changes. Minimal lifestyle adjustments can make a big impact on your heart health and overall wellness!

Show your heart some love this month with these 10 tips:

  1. Strive for daily movement: Heart-pumping physical activity helps to prevent cardiovascular disease and can improve overall mental and physical health. The American Heart Association recommends five 30-minute moderate exercise sessions each week. Intense workouts aren’t always the answer – we recommend trying to work non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise, into your day. Cleaning and gardening, vacuuming, opting to take the stairs, and parking farther back in the parking lot are great ways to get more movement if you don’t have time for the gym.
  2. Build muscle: Strength training pairs well with cardiovascular exercise as it tones muscles and burns fat. The American Heart Association recommends getting in two days of moderate to high-intensity strength training each week. With a few dumbbells, you can strength train just as effectively at home as you can at the gym!
  3. Maintain a healthy weight: Keeping a healthy weight, blood pressure and total cholesterol have a significant impact on your heart health. Healthy weight goals are unique to each person but there are standard guidelines for blood pressure and cholesterol. Work with your doctor to find an appropriate goal weight based on your personal factors, such as age and height.
  4. Check for diabetes: Untreated diabetes can lead to heart disease and many other complications. Screen for diabetes using a simple blood test. If you have diabetes, there are a variety of ways to manage it under the care of a physician.
  5. Eat well: A healthy diet rich with heart-smart foods is essential to a healthy heart and lifestyle. Salmon, nuts, berries, and oats are just a few of the heart “superfoods” that may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Dark chocolate is also on the list and is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth (in moderation).
  6. Reduce junk food: To enjoy the full benefits of a heart-healthy diet, we suggest limiting the intake of junk foods that lack nutrients. Added sugars, saturated fat and excessive sodium can all negatively impact heart health and overall physical health. When eaten in excess, these foods can cause weight gain, raise blood pressure and clog arteries, which are all risk factors for heart disease.
  7. Find reasons to smile: A happy heart is a healthy heart. Make time for activities you enjoy, either alone or with people you love, and hobbies outside of your work and household duties. Taking this time for yourself will help relieve stress and improve your overall mood, providing a great foundation for a heart-healthy lifestyle.
  8. Get plenty of rest: Sleep restores the body, helps decrease stress and increases overall wellbeing. To reap the full benefits, we recommend sleeping for seven hours each night. Creating a calming bedtime routine, as well as a set schedule for going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, are great ways to establish healthy sleep patterns. Getting sunshine and movement throughout your day also aids in improving sleep quality.
  9. Manage your stress: Stress raises cortisol levels, which can lead to weight gain, a key risk factor for heart disease. Stress can also decrease overall happiness and increase the risk for anxiety and depression. Many of the other items on this list can also help with reducing stress, in addition to practicing positive self-talk and incorporating mindfulness meditation breaks throughout the day.
  10. Stop smoking: Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your heart and your overall health. Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States, and when combined with other heart disease risk factors, smoking increases the risks associated with those factors. Quitting is never easy, but here is a helpful resource if you’re looking to start:

As you can see, many of these tips are intertwined. Working towards a stronger heart is sure to have a positive impact on your overall wellbeing!

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