Since February is American Heart Month, now is the perfect time to look at health and lifestyle patterns and how they affect heart health. Heart disease is the number one cause of death for American women and men. This accounts for 1 in 4 deaths in the United States. Although there are many risk factors that contribute to heart disease, and almost half of all Americans have at least one risk factor (high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet and aging)… we can all reduce our risk by making healthy lifestyle choices and getting appropriate medical treatment.
For American Heart Month 2017, the Million Hearts campaign is inviting younger Americans to help spread health messages. Younger adults have a great opportunity to encourage and support older family members to make some changes for their heart health. Here are some key messages you can share:
• Find a time to talk. Talking with family members about heart disease can be uncomfortable, but it’s worth it – you could be saving someone’s life. You can invite your loved ones to have a heart-to-heart about improving heart health as a family.
• Encourage healthy eating habits. Small changes can add up to a big difference. Find healthier versions of your favorite family recipes. Then plan to accompany your loved ones to the grocery store to help them choose items low in sodium, added sugar, and trans fats. Be sure they stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. The American Heart Association has great ideas and resources for how to eat healthy.
• Promote physical activity. We should all strive for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. You can bring your family to exercise class or invite them on a walk.
• Check in on health care. Remind family members to get regular screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol. Are loved ones in need of medication to help control their risk factors? Set up a reminder system for them using a phone app or pillbox.
Go ahead and have that heart-to-heart with loved ones in your family… you just might save a life.