Small Changes for a Healthier Heart
Each year, February marks American Heart Month, an important reminder that heart disease is both prevalent and preventable.
Heart disease plays a role in 1 in 3 deaths in the United States every year. While several key risk factors aren’t controllable, including age and family history, your actions and habits can significantly affect your heart health. And since heart disease typically develops gradually, over the course of many years, prevention is important at every stage of life.
You’re probably already familiar with the importance of staying physically active — the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week — and smoke-free. Other habits can strengthen your heart, and many of them can easily fit into your day. The daily practices below can keep you on the path to a heart-healthy lifestyle for years to come.
Start your day with a healthy breakfast
There are some well-documented heart-healthy food choices, like cutting down on saturated fats and trans fats.* But it isn’t just what you eat that matters — the timing of your meals may influence heart health, too.
Several research studies have found a link between good heart health and eating breakfast every day. Those who skip out on a morning meal may be more likely to have diabetes, heart disease, or high cholesterol.
When planning your breakfasts, prioritize heart-healthy staples like fruits, veggies, protein, and whole grains. Pro tip: add some almonds to your morning smoothie — consuming a daily serving of nuts like almonds, peanuts, and walnuts can help lower your cholesterol.
*Common sources of saturated fats include red meat and full-fat dairy products. To find out if a food contains trans fats, check the nutrition label for partially hydrogenated oils.
Brush your teeth and floss with care
Here’s yet another reason to brush and floss every day. Good oral hygiene has the potential to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, as numerous studies have found a link between oral health and heart health.
The underlying cause of this connection isn’t entirely understood, but some experts believe it may have to do with inflammation. Whatever the reason, be sure to brush with a fluoride paste for two minutes twice daily, and don’t forget to clean between the teeth with some diligent flossing!
Make a gratitude list
Gratitude gets a lot of buzz these days — for good reason. Its effects go beyond mental health and into cardiovascular territory.
Negative thinking can lead to depression and inflammation, both of which have been linked to poor heart health. Regularly practicing gratitude can direct your thoughts into heart-healthier territory. Challenge yourself to write down 3-5 things you’re grateful for at the end of the day.
Unwind with a hot bath
Warming up with a good soak in the tub isn’t just relaxing, it can also give your heart health a boost. One research study found that people who took a bath almost every day had a lower risk for overall heart health issues and strokes.
The reasoning? In dilating your blood vessels, high temperatures can help lower your blood pressure. Plus, hot baths can relieve stress, another common factor in the development of heart disease.
Ditch the screens before bed
Heart-healthy living also includes staying well-rested. Numerous studies have identified a link between an individual’s sleep habits and their risk for heart disease. The reason? A state of deep sleep gives your heart a chance to recover from how hard it works every day. Your blood pressure drops and your heart rate slows when you enter a state of deep sleep.
Unfortunately, getting the CDC’s recommended seven hours of shuteye each night can be easier said than done. More than a third of adults report that they don’t sleep enough. The good news is that you can take small steps to improve your sleep hygiene.
As a starting point, try to separate screen time from bedtime. It’s best to step away from cell phones, tablets, and computers for at least 30 minutes before you hit the pillow. Not only do these devices stimulate your brain, they emit blue light, which can affect production of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.
Take charge of your heart health
At Alto, we make it easier to manage your risk for heart health issues like coronary artery disease, and to stay on top of cholesterol-lowering or blood pressure management medications.
We will work with your doctor, your insurance (if applicable), and any third party savings programs that you may qualify for to offer your medications at the best price we can. And our team of pharmacists is available to chat whenever questions come up.
Reach out any time by phone at 1-800-874-5881 or in-app messaging.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.