February: Fuel Your Heart Month

February marks American Heart Month, serving as a reminder to give the heart the attention and care it deserves. This month presents an excellent opportunity to kickstart a journey towards better heart health by making conscious and healthy choices. Here are some practical ways to boost and maintain heart health:

Eat a healthy diet

Incorporating healthy foods into your diet is a great way to help maintain a healthy heart. If you are unsure of how to accomplish this, try a few of these simple tips.

  • First, incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet, at least five servings per day. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and nutrients that are great for your health.
  • Second, do your best to choose unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Processed foods are foods that have been altered from their original state, and can range from minimally to ultra processed. In general, the less processed a food is, the better the health benefits for you and your heart. Some examples of minimally processed foods include cut fruit or vegetables, frozen produce, or roasted nuts.
  • Third, try to cut out added salt or sugar from your diet. Choose options that have lower sodium and minimally added sugar if you can. 

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise is an important part of cardiovascular health. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, people who exercise regularly have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. It is recommended that the average adult get at least 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise every week. This can include things such as brisk walking, biking, swimming, gardening, or sporting activities. Additionally, it is recommended that adults participate in two or three strength training workouts per week. Regular exercise can not only reduce cardiovascular risk, it can also improve sleep, energy levels, and overall quality of life. 

Quit smoking

Smoking is associated with poor heart health. According to the CDC, the chemicals in cigarettes can cause inflammation of our arteries and veins, and can lead to cardiovascular disease. Smoking as few as five cigarettes per day can lead to cardiovascular disease, and one in four deaths from cardiovascular disease is caused by smoking. Secondhand smoke exposure can also cause inflammation of the blood vessels and contribute to heart disease, so it’s wise to limit that as well. If you smoke, talk to your Board Certified PA or other health care provider about getting help to quit.

Manage stress

Too much stress can contribute to a decrease in our heart health. According to the American Heart Association, chronic stress is associated with an increase in cardiovascular events. Many of us have a variety of different stressors in our lives, and stress can be difficult to manage. Here are a few ideas to help manage stress better.

  • First, it’s important to recognize what your individual stressors are. Work, money, and relationships are common stressors for many people.
  • Second, it’s important to focus on the things you can change, rather than stressing about the things you cannot change. Making healthy lifestyle choices, such as a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and quality sleep can make a big difference in our stress levels.
  • Finally, there are a variety of resources for people experiencing stress that interferes with their quality of life. Talk to your health care provider if you feel you need some additional help. 

Heart health is such an important part of our overall health. Use February as a springboard to make your healthy changes that will benefit you for years to come. Remember, small steps lead to big results. Start today and celebrate a healthier, happier you all year round!

Maddison Heyn, PA-C, DipABLM

Maddison Heyn, PA-C, DipABLM

Maddison Heyn, PA-C, DipABLM, graduated from the University of Utah PA program in 2017 and practiced in general pediatrics for 4 years. She then moved to her current specialty in lifestyle medicine for Intermountain Health, where she has been enjoying helping patients of all ages live their healthiest lives possible. She is board certified in lifestyle medicine through the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.