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Your Health Matters - Go For Bold During February's Heart Health Month

Your Health Matters

Our families are made up of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels, but there are simple steps you can take to ensure every member of your family stays heart healthy. As we focus on heart health for the month of February, remember that the key to fighting cardiovascular disease is a healthy diet and active lifestyle.

Dr. Douglas Spotts, chief health officer for Meritus Health, says the best place to start is by setting a good example for those we love.

“You can play an important role in your family’s heart health from childhood and beyond, by being that ‘good example,’” Spotts said. “When your loved ones see you making the good choices for a healthy diet and being active, they will often follow along in your footsteps and may even join you on the journey.”

Spotts offered some key eating and exercise ideas to consider.

Avoid sugary drinks and increase your water intake instead to the amount recommended by your health care provider.

Reduce fat content with simple changes like choosing skim milk.

Eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats and avoid fried, fatty baked goods.

If kids or adults are not necessarily into sports, encourage daily family walks after dinner or run around and toss the ball to the dog in the backyard.

Another way to set a great example for those around you is to not make poor choices for your health. One choice is to not smoke or to stop smoking, as it increases your risk of having and dying from heart disease, heart failure or a heart attack.

“Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of recurrent heart attack and cardiovascular death, and it is possible,” Spotts said. “Millions of people have successfully quit smoking and remain nonsmokers.”

When you set a quit date, let those close to you know and ask them for support in your efforts. One way for them to help is to not smoke in your house and vehicle.

Poor sleep habits and the lack of sleep itself can directly affect your heart health, as it is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

“Sleep regulates metabolism and better sleep is associated with healthier weight, which is good for your heart,” Spotts said.

It’s also crucial to keep blood pressure in check and stress at bay. Many studies report a connection between stress and heart health, and after a heart attack, people with higher levels of stress and anxiety tend to have more trouble recovering.

“If you have high blood pressure, you and your health care provider should work together to come up with a plan to reduce it,” Spotts said. “It’s truly about making one or a few small changes — being more active, eating well, reducing sodium, drinking only in moderation and taking prescribed medications as directed — that will provide big benefits to your health.”

Begin a conversation with your health care provider if you know you need to make better choices for your heart health. After that, a great place to learn more about being active in our community, choosing healthier foods and snacks and staying mindful and stress free is at HealthyWashingtonCounty.com. The website is full of free resources and information for anyone.

While you are on the site, join the Go For Bold movement to lose one million pounds as a community by the end of the decade. It’s easy and will help you and those you love stay on track and take good care of your heart, this month and every month.

This Your Health Matters column published in The Herald-Mail and online at HeraldMailMedia.com in February 2022.

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