The Heart of it All
Our families are made up of all ages, shapes, sizes, and fitness levels. But whether you are caring for your partner, a grandparent, teen, or toddler, there are simple steps you can take to ensure every member of your family stays heart healthy.
Here are some tips to guide you to keep your family’s hearts healthy.
- Avoid sugary drinks and choose water or skim milk instead.
- Eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats.
- Avoid fried, fatty baked goods.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
1. Lowers your risk of heart disease.
2. Gives you more energy.
3. Helps you feel good about yourself.
- Limit screen time to two hours or less per day. When you do spend time in front of the screen, use the time to do yoga, stretch or lift weights.
- Encourage daily family walks after dinner, or run around and toss the ball to the dog in the backyard.
- The goal is to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
Quit Smoking and Stay Away from Secondhand Smoke
Smoking 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.
Control Your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Undiagnosed or untreated high blood cholesterol can lead to serious complications such as heart attack and stroke. Your doctor will order routine lipid panel blood tests to screen for high blood cholesterol, depending on your age, risk factors or family history. If you have high blood pressure, you and your healthcare provider need to work together as a team to reduce it by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, eating healthy, reducing sodium, drinking only in moderation, and taking prescribed drugs as directed.
Know Your Numbers
Desirable Cholesterol Levels
- Total cholesterol – Less than 200 mg/dL
- LDL (“bad” cholesterol) – Less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL (“good” cholesterol) – 60 mg/dL or higher
- Triglycerides – Less than 150 mg/dL
Blood Pressure Levels
- 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high
Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation
In addition to raising blood pressure, too much alcohol can add unneeded calories to your diet. If you drink alcoholic beverages, have only a moderate amount—one drink a day for women, two drinks a day for men.
Many studies report a connection between stress and heart health. For example, the most commonly reported “trigger” for a heart attack is an emotionally upsetting event, particularly one involving anger.
Make Good Sleep Habits
Lack of sleep 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.
- Keep the same sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends. Limit the difference to no more than about an hour.
- Use the hour before bed for quiet time. Avoid strenuous exercise and bright artificial light, such as from a TV or computer screen.
- Avoid heavy and/or large meals within a couple hours of bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark.