Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Most middle-aged and young adults have one or more risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or being a smoker or overweight. Having multiple risk factors increases your risk for heart disease.
Did you know that people who have close relationships at home, work, or in their community tend to be healthier and live longer? One reason is that we're more successful at meeting our health goals when we work on them with others. This month, we want to inspire all of you to protect and strengthen your hearts with the support of others.
Why connecting is good for your heart
Feeling connected with others and having positive, close relationships benefit our overall health, including our blood pressure and weight. Having people in our lives who motivate and care for us helps, as do feelings of closeness and companionship. These heart-healthy lifestyle tips will help you protect your heart — and studies show you will be more successful if you work on them with others, including by texting or phone calls if needed.
- Be more physically active
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a nutritious diet
- Quit smoking
- Reduce stress
- Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night
- Track your heart health stats
You don't have to make big changes all at once. Small steps will also get you where you want to go.
family, friends, colleagues, or members of your community to join you in your
efforts to be more physically
- Ask a colleague to walk "with you" on a regular basis, put the date on both your calendars, and text or call to make sure you both get out for a walk
- Get a friend or family member to sign up for the same online exercise class, such as a dance class. Make it a regular date!
- Grab your kids, put on music, and do jumping jacks, skip rope, or dance in your living room or yard.
How much is enough? Aim for at least 2½ hours of physical activity each week — that's just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition, do muscle strengthening exercises 2 days a week. If you can't carve out a lot of time in your day, break it up and try 10 or 15 minutes a few times a day.
Aim for a healthy weight
Find someone in your friend group, at work, or in
your family who also wants to reach or maintain a healthy weight. (If you're
overweight, even a small weight loss of 5-10 percent helps your health.) Check
in with them regularly to stay motivated. Agree to do healthy activities, like
walking or cooking a healthy meal, at the same time, even if you can't be
together. Share low-calorie, low-sodium recipes.
We tend to eat like our friends and family, so ask others close to you to join in your effort to eat healthier. One option is following the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI) free Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. Research shows that, compared to a typical American diet, it lowers high blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels.
To help you quit, ask others for support or join an online support group. Research shows that people are much more likely to quit if their spouse, friend, or sibling does. Social support online can help you quit. All states have quit lines with trained counselors—call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). You'll find many free resources to help you quit, such as apps, a motivational text service, and a chat line at BeTobaccoFree.hhs.gov and Smokefree.gov.
If you need extra motivation to quit, consider those around you: Breathing other people's smoke, called secondhand smoke, is dangerous. Many adult nonsmokers die of stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.
Reducing stress helps your heart health. Set goals with a friend or family member to do a relaxing activity every day, like walking, yoga, or meditation, or participate in an online stress-management program together. Physical activity also helps reduce stress. Talk to a qualified mental health provider or someone else you trust.
Sleeping 7-8 hours a night helps to improve heart health. De-stressing will help you sleep, as does getting a 30-minute daily dose of sunlight. Take a walk instead of a late afternoon nap! Family members and friends: remind each other to turn off the screen and stick to a regular bedtime. Instead of looking at your phone or the TV before bed, relax by listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.
Track your heart health stats together
Keeping a log of your blood pressure, weight goals, physical activity, and if you have diabetes, your blood sugars, will help you stay on a heart-healthy track. Ask your friends or family to join you in the effort.
Summit Medical Group providers partner with patients to identify risk factors, identify healthy lifestyle changes, and monitor heart health stats. Summit also provides a Cardiac Calcium screening, which determines the amount of atherosclerosis, or plaque build-up, in the coronary arteries, which is directly related to your risk for a future heart attack. This quick, painless test is available without a referral and is available to anyone. For additional information, visit our Cardiac Calcium Screening webpage for more information and to schedule an appointment. .