February is American Heart Month, and although there are factors you cannot control like family history and aging, there are steps you can take to maintain heart health. Exercising as little as 30 minutes a day can help lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can also help you lose weight. A 5 to 10 percent drop in weight, especially around your stomach area, can lower your risk of heart disease. Quitting smoking is another key factor along with having a healthy diet.
Nuts, such as walnuts, that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids can shield the heart by decreasing inflammation in arteries. Other nuts like peanuts, pistachios, and almonds contain sterols. Plant sterols help lower cholesterol absorption in the intestines. Reducing your salt intake can also lower blood pressure. Using healthier herbs to season your food and asking for salad dressings on the side when dining out can keep your intake to the target level of less than a teaspoon a day.
Know the signs of a heart attack, like a squeezing feeling or pressure in the chest, pain in one or both arms, having a cold sweat and nausea. Confusion and trouble talking, numbness in the face, arm or leg, sudden headache and dizziness could be signs of stroke. Every second counts, so call 911 immediately if you or a loved one have these symptoms.