Red is a popular color for February, not just because of Valentine’s Day, but because it’s also American Heart Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing one in four men and one in three women each year. Women, in particular, underestimate their risk for heart disease: According to the American Heart Association, only in five women believes heart disease is her greatest health risk.
This February, we encourage you to focus on your heart health, beginning with heart disease prevention. Below, we discuss four unexpected ways to prevent heart disease.
1. Curb Your Sugar Intake
We know excess sodium and high levels of fat can lead to high blood pressure and plaque buildup in your arteries, both of which are precursors to heart disease. Sugar is arguably even more dangerous because many people don’t link sugar consumption to heart health. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, sugar can actually affect the pumping mechanism of your heart and could increase the risk for heart failure. Excess sugar intake can be a factor for increased triglyceride levels.
To keep the heart healthy, the CDC recommends diabetics regularly check their blood sugar levels and encourages those who do not have diabetes to limit their sugar intake.
2. Brush Up on Dental Health
Did you know there’s a connection between your mouth and heart disease? The American Academy of Periodontology states that people with periodontal disease have almost double the risk of developing coronary artery disease. In fact, one study has shown that gingivitis, cavities and missing teeth were as good at predicting heart disease as cholesterol levels.
Keep your mouth healthy, and you’ll keep your heart healthy.Make it a point to reduce your sugar intake, floss daily and/or use a water pick, and schedule regular checkups with your dentist to ensure your oral health is on point.
3. Laugh More
Laughter has been touted as the best medicine for years. Now there’s scientific proof that the adage is accurate…at least in matters of the heart. The study, conducted by cardiologist Michael Miller of University of Maryland, showed laughter boosted blood flow throughout the body similar to light exercise or cholesterol lowering statin drugs.
Tip: Have a Netflix account? Fill your queue with comedies to help you to relieve stress and get laughing!
4. Be More Laid Back
The same Type A personality that served you so well in your career and other pursuits may be hurting your heart. According to US News, certain Type A personality traits can result in elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. If you’re a Type A personality, the best way to counter your increased risk for heart disease is to take a play from a Type B personality’s playbook and relax. Sign up for yoga, meditation or tai-chi classes to learn to channel any angry energy or stress in more productive ways.
Using the above four tips will help you to prepare you for American Heart Month and help keep your heart healthy this month and beyond.
Looking to chill out but aren’t interested in meditation? Consider adopting or fostering a pet! Pets are proven to lower stress levels, which can benefit your heart health. For more information on this and how pets can benefit your overall health, download our free guide today.