February: American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month! While your cardiovascular health is always important, this is a great reminder to evaluate your habits to stay happy and healthy!

Nearly half of adults in the U.S. have hypertension (high blood pressure), but only 25% actually take steps to keep it under control. Hypertension drastically increases your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, so it’s important to manage it before it’s too late. What are some things you should do to manage your high blood pressure?

Monitor Your Numbers

The first thing you should do is check your blood pressure regularly. If you’re only checking when you go to the doctor, you may not be getting an accurate assessment of your heart health. Many people feel anxious (even subconsciously) when at the doctor, causing something called “White Coat Syndrome.” The environment around you can cause your blood pressure to spike while you’re there.

There are a variety of other reasons your blood pressure may change temporarily. Caffeine is a common culprit. If you’re running late or in a hurry, that can cause your numbers to spike. That’s why monitoring your blood pressure at home at various times of day will help you understand your cardiovascular health better.

Exercise

We all know that exercise is good for us, but it goes far beyond losing weight. Any form of exercise will get the blood pumping, so don’t feel like you need to run, jump, or do something you’re not comfortable with. Introduce a daily walk to your schedule, try a yoga class, or even find a low-impact exercise video to help you get moving every day. Your heart will thank you for it!

Eat Well

We’re not talking about fad diets to lose 10 pounds. We’re talking about a heart healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains. This is commonly called the “DASH diet,” which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The diet limits foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars.

“Studies have shown that the DASH diet can lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks. The diet can also lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol levels in the blood. High blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol levels are two major risk factors for heart disease and stroke.” - Mayo Clinic

Take Medication

Even with all of these practices in place, medication is still necessary. The important thing is to remember to take it at the same time every day.

There are many different medications on the market for high blood pressure, so you shouldn’t have an issue finding one that works for you and your budget. Be honest with yourself and your doctor about what you need, what side effects you experience, and how the medicine makes you feel. Together, you should be able to keep hypertension under control!


Want more healthy tips? Check out our recent post, Healthy Tips for the New Year.

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