FOCUS ON WELLNESS

February is American Heart Month

Why focus on your heart health? One in four deaths in the U.S. is attributed to heart disease

Side view of a man's feet walking up stairs

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Every February, the country comes together to celebrate and raise awareness for all things heart related. American Heart Month is a time we focus specifically on heart disease and improving cardiovascular health.

Why is that so important? Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. To put this into perspective, approximately 659,000 people die from heart disease each year, a number representing one in four deaths. These statistics are a helpful reminder of why it is so crucial to raise awareness this month on how we can improve our heart health and reduce risk.

Highlighted below are some Johns Hopkins resources that can support you in keeping your heart healthy.

Move more to benefit your heart

The Johns Hopkins Medicine article 7 Heart Benefits of Exercise provides quick tips to get you moving.

How can you fit more exercise into your day, or become physically active if you haven't been before? Begin with small starts like these and build up from there.

  • Park your car at the far end of a parking lot so you have farther to walk to a building's entrance.
  • Choose the stairs rather than the elevator.
  • Spend part of your lunch break walking.
  • On bad-weather days, try walking indoors at a mall.
  • Wake up a bit earlier and exercise before you do anything else.
  • Use a wearable fitness tracker to count your steps. Try increasing your daily steps by 500 each week with the goal of reaching 10,000 per day, a level that can produce many health benefits. Visit JHM's Heart Health Wellness and Prevention webpage for additional comprehensive and practical articles, including Risk Factors for Heart Disease and Heart Healthy Eating on a Monthly Budget.

Nutrition and heart disease

A healthy diet is a key component to maintaining a healthy heart and to preventing chronic conditions such as heart disease. What exactly does it mean to eat "heart healthy"? Here's what the American Heart Association considers a heart-healthy diet:

  • A variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains such as rolled or steel-cut oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, and popcorn
  • Healthy sources of protein such as legumes and nuts, fish, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, lean unprocessed meats, and poultry
  • Foods with minimal added sugar and sodium
  • Liquid nontropical vegetable oils
  • Minimally processed foods

American Heart Association Heart-Check

An easy tool you can use when grocery shopping to ensure you are picking out heart-smart foods is the American Heart Association Heart-Check. When you see the AHA-certified check mark on products, you can be confident that the item aligns with the organization's guidelines for healthy eating.

Heart-healthy relationships

Having positive relationships with the people (and pets) in your life can be supportive in starting and maintaining healthy lifestyle habits.

Take regular fitness or meditation classes with a co-worker or a family member via BurnAlong, an online wellness program that is free to Johns Hopkins employees.

Read the mySupport article Busting Relationship Myths with your partner to get a few tips on how to strengthen your relationship.

If you have developed more online relationships during the pandemic, watch the live webinar Healthy Boundaries in Online Relationships, which will be offered on Thursday, Feb. 24, through Johns Hopkins' partnership with Resources for Living.

You also may contact mySupport, the university's employee assistance program, 24/7 at 443-997-7000, option 2, to help navigate the ups and downs of any relationship, whether with a parent, child, co-worker, or other person.

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