February is synonymous with red and pink hearts, valentines, expensive dates, roses and that little baby in a diaper with a bow and arrow.
The month of love is getting another symbol in the shape of a heart: heart health. February is national heart health month. Not to put a downer on the love party, but heart disease is serious. And not knowing the risk factors can lead to serious issues that not even a valentine can fix.
Heart health is important in men and women, but I am going to focus on women’s heart health (even though many of the risks and tips apply to both sexes).
Most Common Heart Disease Risk Factors
1. History of heart attack in your family, especially your parents. This simple genetic connection can raise your heart attack risk almost 340 percent! This is not a death sentence, but combine this genetic predisposition with an unhealthy lifestyle and you are a recipe for a heart attack. The other kicker is if the heart disease was before the age of 65.
2. You are fatigued or tired all of the time. If you have a hard time getting to sleep, staying asleep or are not getting good enough sleep, you could raise your heart disease risk by 45 percent. A good night’s sleep helps you in many different ways that all link to your heart: stress, blood pressure and weight. If you have sleep problems, turn off electronic devices an hour before bedtime to get your mind to wind down. And avoid watching TV in bed. It will confuse your brain.
3. You are too stressed. We’ve all seen the movies where the overstressed and overworked character is stricken with a heart attack after the heart just cannot take it anymore. This is not just in the movies. If you are constantly stressed in high levels, your adrenaline will work in overdrive increasing your blood pressure and damaging blood vessels. While you cannot avoid stress (I wish!), you can keep it at a minimum. Find ways to relieve stress through things you enjoy. If your life is too stressful, evaluate which responsibility you can let go of in the name of heart health.
4. You sit all day. A sedentary lifestyle is not healthy on many levels, but it also has a surprising heart risk. By sitting for long periods of time, your fat tends to stay in your blood stream longer and your arteries are not moving as efficiently. This can lead to clogged arteries which is a death sentence for your heart. Most jobs require you to sit in front of a computer, so find opportunities to get up a walk around at least every hour.
5. You hang out with smokers. Smoking yourself is literally killing your heart. It raises your heart disease risk b 100 percent. But second hand smoke can still do some serious damage. The exposure to the harmful chemicals can still damage your blood vessels which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.