February is National Heart Month, so let’s have a heart-to-heart about your heart.
With all the emphasis on COVID-19, it’s easy to forget that heart disease is still responsible for about 800,000 deaths per year in the U.S. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease has remained a leading health threat during the pandemic. More people are reporting lower physical and emotional wellness, many have delayed or avoided seeking medical care during the pandemic, and the unhealthy use of alcohol and other substances has been on the rise. All these things can increase the risk of heart disease.
More from the AHA:
• COVID and heart disease. It continues to look like older people with coronary heart disease or high blood pressure have a higher likelihood of developing more severe symptoms. Stroke survivors and those with heart disease, including high blood pressure and congenital heart defects, can face an increased risk for complications if they become infected with the COVID-19 virus. The AHA urges people with cardiovascular risk factors, heart disease, and heart attack and stroke to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
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• Flu and heart disease. It’s particularly important to get a flu vaccine if you have a medical condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart failure, or have had a heart attack or stroke. In fact, according to recent research, vaccinating people against the flu within 72 hours of a heart attack or invasive coronary procedure may yield health benefits beyond flu season.
• Nutrition and a healthy heart. Of course, eating healthy has always been recommended as an important part of heart health. But, according to the AHA, new dietary guidance emphasizes balance – it’s not all or nothing. “Balance” is the latest word on heart-healthy eating, according to a new report that encourages people to adapt broader eating habits instead of focusing on single foods – and it’s not one size fits all.
The Mayo Clinic weighs in by recommending the Mediterranean diet, a way of eating that’s based on the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy and other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Numerous studies have confirmed that the Mediterranean diet helps prevent heart disease and stroke. The diet emphasizes whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, with olive oil as the main source of added fat, and includes fish, seafood, dairy and poultry in moderation.
Several studies have also pointed out the physical and emotional health benefits of families cooking and eating meals together at least three times a week. Kids are more likely to eat healthy foods that they had a part in preparing or cooking.
It’s even possible to follow a heart-healthy dietary pattern regardless of whether food is prepared at home, ordered in a restaurant or online, or purchased as a prepared meal, says the AHA. Read the nutrition facts and ingredient list on packaged food labels to choose those with less sodium, added sugars and saturated fat.
• Fitness and a healthy heart. Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, one of the top public health schools in the world, says for certain heart conditions, exercise can be as powerful as some medications. Their research has found that one of the very best gifts you can give your heart is physical activity. In fact, Johns Hopkins adds that pairing regular exercise with a Mediterranean-style diet, maintaining a normal weight and not smoking is a great protection plan against coronary artery disease and vascular disease.
Check out these benefits of exercise that impact heart health:
• Exercise lowers blood pressure.
• Exercise is key to weight control.
• Exercise helps strengthen muscles.
• Exercise can help you quit smoking.
• Exercise can stop or slow the development of diabetes.
• Exercise lowers stress.
• Exercise reduces inflammation.
You can find numerous heart-healthy recipes and online exercise classes for all ages and abilities on the LNKTV Health YouTube Channel, its website and LNKTV Health programming on Spectrum and Allo. From our hearts to yours, protect your heart health, get your vaccinations and get your boosters.
Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (HealthyLincoln.org) and LNKTV Health (LNKTVhealth.lincoln.ne.gov) bring you Health and the City, a monthly column that examines relevant community health issues and spotlights local organizations that impact community wellness. Direct questions or comments to [email protected]