February is American Heart Month, and an opportunity to reflect on the importance of heart health. As heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and people with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, taking steps to keep your heart healthy is extremely important.
Prioritizing heart health as a form of self care is a great way to ensure you’re making heart-healthy decisions!
“Studies show self-care routines, such as taking a daily walk and keeping doctor’s appointments, help us keep our blood pressure in the healthy range and reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke,” said David Goff, M.D., NHLBI’s director of cardiovascular sciences.
Here are some ways you can take small steps to incorporate heart health into your self care routines.
You might say sleep is the ultimate form of self care. It’s when your body takes time to rest and recover and benefits your heart, your immune system, your lungs and your mind.
Individuals sleeping fewer than 7 hours per night may have increased risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity (which can lead to an increased risk for heart disease) or heart attack.
Simple Self Care Steps: Avoiding caffeine in the evening, turning off screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime and beginning a simple bedtime routine can help make it easier to catch those extra zzzs.
Make Time to Move
Getting your heart rate up boosts heart health and mental health! Even if you don’t have time to visit the gym, look for little opportunities throughout the day to move can keep your heart healthy.
Simple Self Care Steps: You can easily incorporate movement into your daily routine by stretching in the morning, taking a quick walk at lunch, or having a mini-dance party with the family after dinner.
Meditating can help your body manage stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, helping your body lower heart rate and blood pressure as part of a daily routine. Meditating for even five minutes a day may improve heart health!
Simple Self Care Steps: Carve out five minutes a day to give meditation a try. You can learn how to meditate through apps like Headspace and Calm.
Keep Your Doctor’s Appointments
Whether a routine check-up or part of managing a health condition, your doctor’s appointments help you keep a pulse on your heart health. Keeping up with doctor’s visits also creates opportunities to keep track of your blood pressure, weight and other key factors that contribute to heart health.
Simple Self Care Steps: Try reframing doctor’s visits as a form of self care! Use calendar reminders or free pharmacy tools to stay on top of your check-ups and prescription needs.
For more on American Heart Month and ideas on how to practice self care that leads to a healthy heart, visit hearttruth.gov