February is American Heart Month, as good a time as any to start taking these steps to promote heart health. Make a pact with yourself (and family members) to cross these things off your list as soon as possible.
With a little bit of organization and work, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.
February is American Heart Month, as good a time as any to start taking these steps to promote heart health. Make a pact with yourself (and family members) to cross these things off your list as soon as possible. And check in with us on your progress at facebook.com/getbuttonedup.
1. Get screened during your annual physical.
Regular screening is critical for maintaining cardiovascular health because it can help you identify risk factors before they are a significant problem.
If you're 20 or older, get cardiovascular screening tests each year. Be sure you and your doctor discuss the results and general trends of your blood pressure and cholesterol level. Sometimes a look at the cold, hard data can be just what you need to change your dietary and exercise habits.
If you are over 45, you should also get blood-glucose levels checked. If you are "high risk," you may want to ask your doctor about getting a C-reactive protein (CRP) test to evaluate your risk of developing coronary artery disease.
If you haven't scheduled your annual physical yet and it's been more than a year since you last saw your doctor, do not finish reading this article. Stop. Pick up your phone, call your physician and book your physical.
2. Know what questions to ask your health provider.
Did you know that heart disease can manifest itself differently in men than in women? Is your doctor aware of your family history of heart disease? It is critical that you have an open and productive dialogue with your physician about your risks, recommended tests, etc. Don't be afraid to ask questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to managing your health.
3. Move for 30 minutes most days. The best way to boost your fitness level: walk for 30 minutes every day. If you haven't seen that informative, animated YouTube video from Dr. Mike Evans about the profound impact of exercise, you should watch it today.
4. Turn out the lights earlier. Getting enough sleep is important for more than beauty reasons. Researchers at the University of Chicago, for example, have found that too little sleep is linked to increased calcium buildup in arteries, which can lead to the plaques that can cause heart attacks and strokes.
The study found that one less hour of sleep per night leads to a 16 percent increase in coronary calcium. So this month, start tracking how many hours of sleep you get a night. If you notice that you are routinely getting less than seven or eight hours of sleep, make an effort to turn out the lights earlier.
Consider setting an alarm to ring 30 minutes before your ideal bedtime, as it's easy to lose track of time watching TV, delving into Facebook or catching up on email.
The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.