February is as good a time as any to start caring about heart health. It is American Heart Month and includes the holiday that is most commonly associated with love and romance, but making heart-healthy decisions should not end when the calendar flips to March. Here are a few tips to help keep your heart health on track throughout the year.
Heart Health On Track
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are responsible for taking approximately 17.9 million lives each year, making it the number one cause of death globally.
And while behaviors such as an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol are all obvious risk factors, the air we breathe can have a huge impact on our heart health as well.
Breathing in particulates, (the tiny particles that float in polluted air), puts you at a higher risk of heart and brain problems, especially in people who are already at risk. Here are some of the problems it can present:
- Increased risk of blood clots, which can cause a stroke
- Irregular heartbeat
- Raised blood pressure
- Swelling or inflammation of blood vessels
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries)
Follow these tips to limit your exposure to air pollution and make this February, which just happens to be American Heart Month, less about the chocolate hearts and more about your cardiovascular health.
Heart Health Tips
- Start with a Healthy Heart – Having a healthy heart makes you less vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution.
- Make smart food choices – Stay home and cook so you can be in complete control of what you’re eating.
- Keep your body moving – Take a romantic stroll in lieu of a movie. Walking not only provides heart healthy benefits but it also cuts down on exposure to indoor air pollution, which can be worse than outdoor air.
- Don’t smoke – One of the best things you can do for your heart is to quit smoking and/or limit your exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Manage any pre-existing health conditions with regular check-ups and by taking the medicine you’ve been prescribed.
- Do an Air Check- Before heading out to work, school, or to play, you can check your local air quality index. Green means go on this rating scale and shows it’s safe for everyone to spend time outside. People with health conditions, however, should limit the time they spend outdoors when a yellow or orange rating is given.
- Switch Up your Workout – You might need to change where and how hard you workout in areas with low air quality. Avoid exercise that will result in heavy breathing if you are near high traffic roads, power plants, or even a gym with poor ventilation.
- Purify your Air – Invest in an Air Purifier for your home and office to remove pollutants. Reducing the amount of particulates in the air can lower blood pressure and inflammation.