February is American Heart Month, a time to prioritize self care and appreciate just how hard this muscular organ works – beating an average of 100,000 times a day and pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood in those 24 hours. It’s also a good time to consider the ways you can keep your heart from working harder than necessary.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, heart disease – the leading cause of death in the United States – is largely preventable.
Some of the more obvious ways to help your heart include choosing heart healthy foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein-rich foods such as fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and lean meats), aiming for a healthy weight and quitting smoking.
It’s also important to regularly check blood pressure and cholesterol, and to understand your hereditary risk of heart disease. Age is also a factor: 45 or older for men and 55 or older for women. And speaking of women, just having that double X chromosome increases your risk of heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women.
While a longer life and healthier lifestyle should be reasons enough, there’s another bonus to being heart healthy: a bigger bank account. Caring for your heart can improve financial health, too. Rutgers University took a look at the relationship between health and wealth, recognizing the cost of unhealthy habits (smoking or junk food, for example), as well as the lifetime medical cost savings of a 10 percent weight loss, which are between $2,200 and $5,300, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There’s also the mental stress of mounting medical bills, and the list goes on.
Take the time this month to step back and really consider the ways you can improve your heart health. Your future self will thank you for it.