The Looking Glass

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Shea’s Health Corner – Heart Health Month

Heart health

Heart health

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The month of February is here and it’s officially American Heart Month. Every year, 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States; that’s 1 out of every 4. Started in 1963, this month pays tribute to heart health professionals and volunteers who work to prevent, treat, and research heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women. Heart disease affects many people due to a number of factors, including conditions they are born with and those brought about by lifestyle, such as not getting enough exercise or having an unhealthy diet. By making changes to lead a healthier life and managing current health conditions, individuals can help prevent heart disease, allowing for a long healthy life. There are many ways heart disease can be prevented; I’ve listed a few below that can make a difference in either your life or in the life of someone you love:


  1. Control your blood pressure: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Check your blood pressure regularly at either a doctor’s office, pharmacy, school nurse, or with a home electronic BP machine. For people ages 18-25, a healthy blood pressure is 120/80 to 139/89. If you have high blood pressure, make sure to take the correct steps to help maintain a healthy pressure by seeing a healthcare provider and making better lifestyle choices.
  2. Eat Healthy: obesity can increase one’s chances of getting heart disease. Foods that are high in  saturated fats, sodium, and sugars can lead to heart disease. Eating plenty of foods such as whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and lean proteins can help decrease the risk of heart disease.
  3. Exercise Regularly: exercising has many benefits that include strengthening your heart and improving circulation.. Exercise also  helps to maintain a healthy weight, lowers cholesterol, and lowers and controls blood pressure, which are some leading causes of  heart disease. Doing simple exercises such as yoga, taking a walk outside (even if it’s cold) or simply going to the gym and doing cardio workouts such as the elliptical or running on the treadmill, can help with your cardiovascular health.
  4. Limit Alcohol Consumption: consuming too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and add empty  calories that can lead to weight gain. Men should not consume more than two alcoholic beverages a day, and women should limit their consumption to  one alcoholic beverage per day to maintain good heart health.
  5. Don’t smoke: smoking cigarettes or any tobacco products raises your blood pressure and puts you at a much higher risk of suffering from heart disease and strokes. Quitting smoking now decreases your chances of getting heart disease. If you are thinking of quitting, talk to your healthcare provider or resources exclusive to you such as a school nurse or therapist, to figure out the best way for you to quit smoking.
  6. Monitor Health Issues: managing health issues such as high cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and diabetes can help reduce your chances of heart disease. High cholesterol and triglyceride levels can lead to coronary artery disease, and cholesterol can also increase your risk of heart attack. Diabetes doubles the risk of diabetic heart disease, which is why  it is important to get tested for diabetes and if you have it, that you keep it under control.
  7. Manage Stress: stress is linked to heart disease in so many different ways. Stress raises your blood pressure and “extreme” stress can trigger a heart attack. Some of the negative ways people cope with stress are through drinking, smoking, and overeating, all of which are extremely bad for your heart. Managing stress in healthy ways, such as seeing a therapist/doctor, listening to music, or any other outlet that you enjoy doing, such as  cooking healthy meals, working out, or spending time with friends, can help keep your stress low. Doing activities such as meditation, working out, or simply seeing a therapist to talk about health issues, can significantly decrease your stress levels and give your heart a break!
  8. Get enough sleep: sleep deprivation can raise your risk of heart disease by raising your blood pressure and causing obesity and diabetes. The recommended average amount of sleep for an adult above the age of 18 every night is 7-9 hours to maintain a healthy heart. Having and maintaining good sleeping patterns is very important, as well. In addition, if you suffer from sleep apnea, see a doctor to get this issue under control. Also, making time to take a nap during the day, particularly if you were up all night studying or working, is beneficial to keeping your heart healthy and happy.
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