February is Heart Health Month, which was established to inspire Americans to recognize the nationwide problem of heart and blood vessel disease, and to support programs that address this problem. So now is a great time to think about the steps you can take to live a healthier lifestyle.
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Here are eight tips for long-term heart health.
1. Start Moving
It sounds simple and in many ways it is. You want long-term heart health? Start moving. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise five days a week or 20 minutes of high-intensity exercise three days per week.
It's great if you can do this; but, the key is to start moving. Go for a walk. Do some work around the house. Ride your bike. Sign up for an organized athletic event and bring a friend. Join a group exercise class.
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2. Improve Your Diet
Decrease your intake of high-fat foods (especially saturated and trans fats), cholesterol and sodium. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. There are other heart-healthy foods you can eat such as whole grains and low-fat proteins including lean meat, poultry and fish. However, a great way to start this is to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.
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3. Get Some Sleep
Poor sleep is connected to heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, atherosclerosis, diabetes, heart attack and stroke. While sleep needs can differ significantly from one person to the next, try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
4. Manage Your Stress
Stress is a normal part of everyday life but if left unchecked, it can lead to emotional, psychological and physical problems such as high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, headaches, chest pains and heart disease. The good news is you can manage your stress with regular exercise, a healthy diet and sufficient rest.
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