Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S.
February is American Heart Month and focuses on encouraging and motivating everyone to adopt heart healthy behaviors.
When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, there are many risk factors that you can control.
One way Elizabeth Balstad says she keeps her heart healthy is by exercising 3 to 4 times per week.
“I’m still relatively young and I’m blessed with good health generally so I just want to keep that up and preventative care is probably the best way for me to go right now,” Balstad said.
Senior exercise specialist Kim Donelan says exercise goes hand in hand when it comes to keeping your heart healthy.
“It reduces your stress. Your heart has to work harder, be faster when you are stressed out whether it’s work related or social obligations or family things going on. It lowers your blood pressure, it lowers your heart rate, when you are exercising,” Donelan said.
Being overweight or obese can raise your risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack due to their link to other risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes, making exercise crucial.
“If your weight is at a healthy weight, your BMI is at a healthy range, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to do just daily activities and exercise,” Donelan said.
Experts say being physically active 150 minutes per week is key and that can be set up to match your individual schedule.
“Maybe it’s five 30 minute sessions, maybe it’s 3 hours separated on the off days from work or whatever that looks like but that’s what’s recommended,” Donelan said.
She says cardio exercises like walking or biking combined with strength training exercises such as weight lifting or machines are great for your heart.
But when you’re just getting started she says take it slow.
“Start small and set a time in your day where it’s a priority. View it like any other doctors appointment, an important event in your day that it’s needed for you not only for physical health but mental and emotional health as well,” Donelan said.
To find out more on how you can keep your heart healthy, click here.