Health & Wellness
Health and Wellness

Tips to Get Heart Healthy

El Paso County Public Health shares tips to support your mental health and well-being this winter.

By Dr. Paul Mayer, co-medical director of El Paso County Public Health

Heart disease is a leading cause of death nationwide for both men and women, but the great news is that it’s largely preventable. The best time to start improving your heart health is today. Here’s a handy checklist to get you started:

A heart, an apple, and an ecg

1. Visit your doctor to learn more about your risk. Tell your doctor that you are interested in being heart-healthy and want to know where you stand.

If you are over 40, make an appointment with your doctor and ask about your 10-year risk of heart disease. Your doctor will decide when you need to be reassessed based on your risk level. If you are between the ages of 20 and 39, your doctor will probably want to examine your risk for heart disease every four to six years.

2. Eat a heart-healthy diet. Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may suggest you follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan: Heart-healthy eating, however, is simple. Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Looking for protein? Fish, legumes (beans), and poultry (chicken, turkey) are the best choices. Avoid trans fats, added sugars (including sugar sweetened beverages), red meats, sodium and saturated fats.

3. Aim for a healthy weight. For most healthy adults, a healthy weight is a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. (Calculate your BMI at https:/ Talk to your doctor about what a healthy weight is for you and how to safely reach a healthy weight.

4. Get active! Getting regular exercise — or even just moving more in your daily life can help you shed excess pounds, increase your fitness level, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, manage high blood pressure, improve your mental health, and lower your risk for many chronic diseases. Most people should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise plan and remember that it’s OK to start small and add in more activity as you get stronger. Even small amounts of exercise make a big difference to your health!

5. Manage stress. Did you know that stressful events can lead to heart attack and angina in some people? Learn how to manage stress the healthy way, by talking to a therapist, learning stress management, practicing meditation, exercising, talking with someone supportive, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing.

6. Quit smoking. This tip is straightforward: Smoking raises the risk of heart disease as well as the risk for lung cancer and other diseases. Vaping and other tobacco use also have serious health consequences. Need help quitting? Adults can connect with a personal coach today. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).

7. Get your Zzzzs. Being tired isn’t just uncomfortable; it’s bad for your health. In general, adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, to allow their bodies to rejuvenate. This includes healing and repairing the heart and blood vessels. Not resting easy? Talk to your doctor about steps you can take to get better sleep.

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