American Heart Month: 4 Ways to Show Your Heart Some Love

On February 14, 2024
In Blog

February is American Heart Month, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) wants you to know that “you have the power to take action to protect yourself against heart disease.” Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people in the US, but small, heart-healthy changes can make a big difference! Here are four ways to show your heart some love.

Stop Smoking

You probably know that smoking can harm your lungs, but you may not realize that it can also affect your heart, increasing the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nicotine raises blood pressure and ​​damages your heart and blood vessels. Additionally, “carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry,” per the CDC. “Exposure to secondhand smoke can also increase the risk for heart disease, even for nonsmokers.”

Limit How Much Alcohol You Drink

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, studies have shown a possible link between moderate alcohol intake, especially antioxidant-rich red wine, and a lower risk of dying from heart disease. However, heavy drinking is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, cardiomyopathy, and even obesity. “Moderate drinking is defined as an average of one drink per day for women and one or two for men,” per Johns Hopkins (note that people with alcoholism, heart rhythm abnormalities, or heart failure should avoid alcohol altogether).

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

To prevent heart disease, the Mayo Clinic recommends eating more fruits, vegetables, low-fat proteins, and whole grains, limiting salt (sodium), added sugar, and unhealthy saturated fats, and controlling portion sizes. Resources for a heart-healthy diet include My Plate, by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), this helpful shopping list from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, provided by the HHS and USDA.

Exercise Regularly

Healthline reports that pairing a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way not only to prevent heart disease, but to reverse certain risk factors, such as high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, diabetes, and obesity. “Muscles that are utilized regularly become stronger and healthier,” including the heart. “When it’s exercised, the heart can pump more blood through the body and continue working at optimal efficiency with little strain. This will likely help it to stay healthy longer. Regular exercise also helps to keep arteries and other blood vessels flexible, ensuring good blood flow and normal blood pressure,” per Healthline.

To learn more about American Heart Month and ways the American Heart Association is Championing Health Equity for All in 2024, “including identifying and removing barriers to health care access and quality,” click here. To learn more about The Alliance for Health Equity or to join us in our mission to advance a more equitable, resilient, and healthy Greater Coatesville community, please visit our website, or click here to make a donation.

 


The Alliance for Health Equity (formerly Brandywine Health Foundation) is a philanthropic organization striving to advance a more equitable, resilient and healthy community for all residents of the Greater Coatesville area. We pursue our mission by providing grants and scholarships to local nonprofits and students that address health and economic disparities and social justice. We also build partnership programs and give voice to those often left out of community solution building to improve the overall health of their communities. 100% of contributions go directly to those in need.