February is American Heart Month in the US and has been since 1964—58 years ago! Why do we have a whole month dedicated to heart health? According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), here’s why:
- Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the US for both men and women as well as for most ethnic and racial groups.
- An estimated 659,000 people die in the US every year from heart disease. That’s 1 person every 36 seconds AND 25% of all deaths!
As far as healthcare costs are concerned—including healthcare services, lost productivity, and medicines, heart disease costs were estimated at $363 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) each year in 2016 and 2017 in the US, alone.
And the US isn’t unique where heart disease is concerned. In 2019, nearly 18.6 million people died globally from heart diseases, and like in the US, heart disease is the #1 killer worldwide.
For information on the rate of heart disease in other countries, go here.
After all those sobering statistics, it only makes sense to focus on heart disease and heart health so we can reverse the devastating impact of heart disease worldwide.
“Heart disease” is an umbrella of heart issues including coronary heart disease, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and congenital heart disease. Heart disease can affect almost anyone, but those with these pre-existing conditions and behaviors can be more susceptible:
- High blood pressure
- High levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- Family history of heart disease
- Age (men: age 55+, women: post-menopause)
- Lack of physical exercise
- Drinking alcohol in excessive amounts
- Eating an unhealthy diet high in saturated and trans fats
And since the physical and mental aspects of our health can be so intertwined, certain mental health illnesses can also increase heart disease risk:
- Mood disorders
- Chronic stress
While any of these pre-existing conditions or behaviors can increase our risk of heart disease, there are some things all of us can do to increase our chances of not becoming a heart disease statistic, and some of these things can be simple habits we can add to our daily lives!
12 Tips to Keep your Heart Healthy
- Exercise regularly, even if it’s for a few minutes at a time
- Make self-care a priority by taking time for activities you enjoy, setting boundaries, taking regular breaks, going for a walk, getting in that regular movement, reading a book, and so on—anything that qualifies as self-care for you counts!
- Stop smoking
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Get regular physicals to monitor any risks, giving you the opportunity to diminish your chance of heart disease
- Eat a heart-healthy diet including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, lean meats and fish, healthy fats, and low-fat and fat-free dairy foods
- Limit your consumption of salt, sugar, saturated and trans fats, and processed foods (especially processed carbohydrates)
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage stress levels
- Get enough sleep (experts suggest at least 7 hours a night)
- Visit your doctor at the first sign of any symptoms.
- Treat any mental health illnesses as you would a physical health illness and seek help and treatment from mental health professionals sooner rather than later
And don’t try to make too many changes at once! Baby steps are key, so choose one thing from the list above and work to create a daily habit around that thing. Not sure where to start? We’ve got two resources to get you going:
The Transform App
Loaded with several different workout programs (including at-home, gym-based, dance, and yoga), over 560 meals customized to you and your goals, important life lessons to help you nail the mental side of lifelong transformation, and a community of like-minded people, The Transform App is your one-stop shop for all things transformation. Try it out for 7 days for FREE here.
The Foundation Five
Choose one of five simple things you can do to not only decrease your risk of heart disease but also increase your health overall. Download a copy for FREE here.
No matter what, remember that doing something is better than doing nothing, so take those baby steps every day to keep your heart healthy.