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Matters of the heart

Woman holding a heart-shaped balloon

February is American Heart Month. Your heart is without a doubt one of the most important parts of your body.

Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, continues to be a leading cause of death for both men and women. It is also one of the leading causes of disability, preventing many from working and fully enjoying life. Learn about the symptoms of heart attack and strokes.

While genetics plays a part in heart health, there are many risk factors that we can influence:

  • Diet
  • Physical activity
  • Tobacco use
  • Weight
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Stress

Heart health important at all ages

Heart health is important at any age. Check out this breakdown of different considerations by decade of life. Being as proactive as possible can help head off heart issues before they start. Three areas of importance for people to address affect not just heart health, but all aspects of wellness, are nutrition, physical activity, and stress.

Eating healthy, concentrating on foods low in saturated fat, transfat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugar, is crucial for heart health. Focus on eating plenty of fruits and veggies, fiber-rich whole grains, fish at least twice a week, nuts, legumes and seeds. Build your grocery shopping list with heart healthy foods as the foundation. More questions about what to eat? Schedule a nutrition consult. Nutrition consultations are free and available to students, faculty, and staff.

Physical activity is also important no matter what your age is. Aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity and two or more days a week of muscle strengthening activities. One of the simplest ways you can work more activity into your day is to go for a walk. Finding an activity that you enjoy is an important part of keeping with an exercise routine. Check out class options at the Student Fitness Center and activities in the Lifestyle Enhancement Program.

Managing stress is another important component of heart health. Not all stress is bad. Stress can help protect you in a dangerous situation—think fight or flight. But preventing and managing ongoing stress can help lower your risk for serious health problems like heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure, among other things. Stress can manifest itself emotionally by feeling worried, angry, irritable, depressed, or unable to focus, or physically as headaches, back pain, problems sleeping, upset stomach, weight gain or loss, tense muscles, and frequent illnesses. There are many different ways people manage stress. Find what methods work for you.

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