Start Small: Live Big – Make changes for a healthier heart

February is American Heart Month, and it’s the perfect time to increase your focus on cardiovascular health and make your heart health a priority!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Arizona has the 10th lowest rate of deaths caused by heart disease in the nation. By making healthy changes, we can continue this positive trend and  improve the heart health of Arizonans. The Live to the Beat campaign led by the CDC Foundation and the Million Hearts Initiative offers recommendations for how you can  prevent heart attack and stroke, as well as take small steps to maintain your heart health.   

Have you heard that physical activity “gets your heart pumping?” Well, it’s true! But it also helps keep your heart strong and healthy for a lifetime. Being physically active can sound like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be. You can choose simple activities you really enjoy — or find ways to add more movement to things you have to do anyway. Anytime you’re moving your body, you’re protecting your heart and it’s never too late to get started.

Eat healthy
Healthy eating is key to a healthy heart — but it’s not always easy. The good news is that eating healthy food isn’t an all or nothing proposition. You don’t need to follow a fad diet or change your whole eating routine overnight. You can start with small changes that work for you. Soon, you’ll experience benefits like boosting your immunity, strengthening your bones, and improving your digestion. It’s never too late to take a small step toward better heart health.

Quit smoking
Quitting smoking isn’t easy. It might take several tries before you quit for good. You can do it—and the benefits for your health will be huge. No matter how long you’ve been smoking, it’s never too late to quit. Commit to taking this key step for your heart health and get the help you need to stay smoke free. For help quitting smoking, contact a free quit coach using the ASHLine at 1-800-55-66-222 to develop your quit plan and other available resources.

Control your blood pressure
High blood pressure affects a lot more than just your heart — it can impact your whole body, head to toe. But there are lots of things you can do to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. These include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, reducing sodium in your diet, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress. Regular visits to your doctor to monitor your blood pressure is also recommended. Know your numbers today!

Manage your cholesterol
Want to lower your risk for heart attack or stroke? Getting your cholesterol checked is a great first step. A doctor can tell you what your cholesterol levels are, and there are plenty of small steps you can take to keep it in check. These include choosing healthier fats such as swapping out butter or vegetable oil for olive oil, consuming plenty of fiber; limiting alcohol, and eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, nuts, and seeds.

Manage your blood sugar
Did you know that high blood sugar is bad news for your heart? And managing blood sugar isn’t just for people with diabetes — it’s important for everyone to be aware of blood sugar and take steps to keep it in a healthy range.

Work with a doctor
If you sometimes avoid going to the doctor, you’re not alone. Working with a doctor can be a huge win for your heart health. And now is the perfect time to start. Remember, doctors and other medical professionals are here to keep you healthy. You have a right to get the care you need from someone who’s on your side. Find a doctor you like and trust, and start working together to get your heart health on track.

Stress less
Life can be stressful: work, finances, health problems, parenting…the list goes on! Basically, we all have some stress in our lives — and you can’t always control the things that stress you out. You can control how you manage your stress. Learning ways to cope with long-term stress can protect your health and lower your risk for heart problems. Find what works for you and take time to take care of yourself each day.

Read these Stories from the Heart, inspiring stories that feature everyday people who have found ways to take heart-healthy small steps, in some cases after experiencing a cardiovascular event themselves. 

To learn more about Stories from the Heart features, or share your heart health story, visit From the Heart today!

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