Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While we bring attention to heart health nationwide every February, everyday habits can lead to a healthier heart year-round. It’s important that Americans not only take advantage of quality health care, but also take steps to control their blood pressure and strengthen their hearts.
Eat healthy: Diet is a key factor to overall heart health. While it’s ok to indulge every now and then, whole grains, fruits and vegetables should make up the bulk of your meals to ensure you’re receiving the appropriate vitamins and minerals. Generally, it’s best to avoid or minimize refined grain products (such as white bread, pasta and pastries), unhealthy fats like saturated and trans fats, and sodium. Tips to help with this include swapping for monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats like olive, fish, avocado, nut, and seed oils; eating freshly prepared foods, as restaurants tend to have a heavy hand with the salt shaker; and controlling portion sizes, using a small plate or bowl to avoid the temptation to overeat.
Exercise: The American Heart Association recommends a total of 150 minutes of exercise per week, including muscle-building activities like resistance or weight training at least two days per week. Although many of us are tied to desks day after day, it’s important to remember that any amount of exercise is better than none. If you spend most of your day sitting, set a timer a few times a day to remind yourself to get up and move. This can be as simple as a walk around the office or neighborhood, or even a few stretches on the floor. A quick consultation with your primary care provider can help craft an exercise routine best for you.
Dr. Ameet Parikh is a cardiologist at Pacific Medical Centers in Kirkland and Canyon Park in Bothell.