February is National Heart Health Month. Each year on the first Friday in February, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and others around the country celebrate National Wear Red Day® to bring greater attention to heart disease as a leading cause of death for Americans and steps people can take to protect their heart. Most 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.
But 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, according to the NHLBI, is that we’re more successful at meeting our health goals when we work on them with others. NHLBI launched the #OurHearts movement to inspire us to protect and strengthen our hearts with the support of others. You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Some small steps will get you where you want to go. Here are some facts, how-to tips, and resources to inspire you to join with others, even if you can’t be physically together, to improve your heart health.
Move more: Aim for at least 2½ hours of physical activity each week.
Eat heart-healthy: We tend to eat like our friends and family, so ask others close to you to join in your effort to eat healthier.
Quit smoking: 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. 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.
Manage stress: 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.
Improve sleep: Sleeping 7–8 hours a night helps to improve heart health. De-stressing will help you sleep, as will 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.