It is February, well-known for the celebration of Valentine’s Day, but while romantic love can nourish our hearts emotionally, what are we doing to help our hearts stay healthy physically?
American Heart Month is also this month with the focus being on heart health, making it the ideal time to learn more about heart health as well as what you can do to ensure that your heart is at its overall best. Let us start with the NH Department of Health and Human Services which has the Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention Program. They suggest that you can “reduce your risk for heart disease through lifestyle changes and by managing medical conditions,” and provide five key ways in which you can improve and maintain a healthy heart starting now (www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdpc/hdsp.htm):
1) Find time to be active. Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
2) Make healthy eating a habit. Small changes in your eating habits can make a big difference. Try making healthier versions of your favorite recipes. How? Look for ways to lower sodium and trans fat, and add more fruits and vegetables.
3) Quit tobacco — for good. Quitting can be tough, but it can be easier when you feel supported. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) today to speak with a quit coach and to get free nicotine replacement therapies.
4) Know your numbers. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are major risk factors for heart disease. Ask your health care team to check your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels regularly and help you take steps to control your levels.
5) Stick to the ’script. Taking your medications can be tough, especially if you feel fine. But sticking with your medication routine is important for managing and controlling conditions that could put your heart at risk.
These are all fundamental ways to create lasting positive changes to the health of your heart, however, being able to just stop smoking is not always as easy as some of the other changes suggested. Switching from pizza to salads at lunchtime or taking a walk after work can be pretty simple and uncomplicated changes to implement for most folks. Smoking presents challenges that could necessitate the need for supports and services in order to attain long-lasting change. That is why NH has developed several resources and programs to help those seeking to quit smoking achieve their goal, no matter how long or how many restarts it may to take to eventually become smoke free.
The Tobacco Prevention & Cessation Program, a part of NH DHHS, “is dedicated to the implementation of a comprehensive program designed to reduce the prevalence and consumption of tobacco use” in NH (www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/tobacco/index.htm). To achieve this goal, they developed QuitNow-NH which offers NH adults, who want to quit tobacco products, access to specially trained Quit Coaches who can help them pick a quit date, identify triggers, and plan for cravings. This service is available at no cost, just call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or visit QuitNowNH.org.
Unfortunately, youth, teens, and young adult can also be tobacco consumers, which is why the TPCP developed My Life, My Quit which offers free and confidential cessation services for youth and teens who want help quitting any form of tobacco. Just call or text 1-855-891-9989 or visit MyLifeMyQuit.com to access this free service. In addition, they have the Save Your Breath Campaign, designed to inform and raise awareness of the dangers of vaping, which has been steadily on the rise here in NH and across the nation and is most prevalent among young people. Loaded with reliable resources that have been scrutinized and verified, the Save Your Breath Campaign can be visited at https://saveyourbreathnh.org.
The month of February is all about the heart, so show your heart some love by treating it well and taking good care of it. Making some modest changes to your lifestyle like being more active and selecting healthier foods as well as ceasing unhealthy and harmful habits (like smoking) will let your heart know just how much you truly appreciate and cherish it!