Many of us think of February as a month to celebrate the people who have won our heart. But it’s also American Heart Month, making this a time to think about the health of your heart and making a commitment to be heart healthy.
Arizonans are doing better than most states when it comes to heart health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Arizona has the 10th lowest rate of death caused by heart disease (144.8 per 100,000 residents). But we can always do better. And that’s the goal of the Live to the Beat campaign led by the CDC Foundation and the Million Hearts Initiative.
The campaign offers these recommendations for how to keep a healthy heart:
Move More: 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 all or nothing. 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 will experience benefits that boosting your immunity, strengthening your bones, and helping your digestive system function. And remember it’s never too late to take a 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 with the process of quitting smoking, contact the ASH Line at 800-55-66-222. Learn more about Quit Coaching and the steps you can take to improve your health by stopping smoking.
Control 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 it in a healthy range. These include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, reducing sodium in your diet, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress.
Manage 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 soluble fiber; limiting alcohol; and eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Manage 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 put off 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.
Teresa Aseret-Manygoats is bureau chief for the Bureau of Chronic Disease and Health Promotion and the state chronic disease director for the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). She started her career with ADHS as the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program manager in 2012, and was most recently the office chief of the Office of Health Equity and Population Health. Aseret-Manygoats co-led the development of the Arizona Health Improvement Plan (AzHIP) Health Equity Action Plan with a core team of statewide community partners in 2020 and 2021. In her current role, she provides oversight and leadership to the Offices of Chronic Disease and Population Health; Tobacco Prevention and Cessation; and Injury and Violence Prevention.