Every year, the month of February is designated as Heart Month. The goal of Heart Month is to raise awareness about heart disease and the controllable risk factors behind it. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in Michigan. Across the state, 27% of the deaths in 2010 were due to cardiac-related diseases. Despite a higher percentage of adults with health insurance and a greater number of people who exercise regularly, Michigan ranks as the state with 10th highest heart disease death rate in the country. Smoking and obesity rates are both higher than the national averages and likely contribute to these frightening statistics.

With that in mind, we have assembled a list of things you can do to decrease your risk for heart disease.

Heart Health Plan for Adults in Michigan

Decreasing your risk for developing most types of cardiovascular diseases means adopting a heart healthy lifestyle. Here are nine tips for getting started:

  1. Start Small: One reason New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and exercise fail more often than they succeed is people try to change everything in their life all at once. Instead, focus on making smaller changes over a longer period of time. For example, start by giving up soda. Then two weeks later add walking three times a week to your schedule. Continue making healthy improvements every few weeks. You will be more likely to stick with your goals when you slowly but consistently make changes.
  2. Schedule a Physical Exam: If you don’t already do so, make a habit of scheduling a yearly physical with your primary care physician. Medicare will pay for one Wellness Visit each year, and so will most insurance companies. The appointment gives your physician the time they need to check your blood pressure, cholesterol and evaluate you for other risk factors.
  3. Eat Your Veggies. Your fruits, too. The advice from most health professionals is that adults should consume five to eight servings each day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a helpful tool you can use to determine just how many fruits and vegetables you should eat. The Nutrition for Everyone calculator uses your age and activity level to make their recommendation.
  4. Exercise: Set a goal of getting thirty minutes of exercise each day. It might help make it easier to reach that goal if you break exercise down in to two fifteen-minute workouts each day. Maybe ride your stationary exercise bike for fifteen minutes in the morning and then take a brisk fifteen minute walk in the evening. As is true with any new form of exercise, talk with your primary care physician before beginning.
  5. Pump Iron: Another important part of staying fit and preventing heart disease is to keep your muscles strong and healthy. The Go4Life initiative from the National Institutes of Health has videos and guides that can show you how to work strength training in to your weekly fitness program.
  6. Stop Smoking: It is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States including those from heart disease. gov was developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The site contains a variety of free tools and resources to help you kick the habit.
  7. Reduce Sodium Intake: Salt and sodium contribute to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Reducing your intake can help you cut your odds for heart disease. The CDC has a free publication Sodium Reduction Tips that can help you learn how to do that.
  8. Limit Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol can lead to an increase in blood pressure. The empty calories can also lead to malnutrition and weight gain.
  9. Develop Stress Management Skills: Stress contributes to high blood pressure and hypertension. Finding ways to better management it is an important part of living a healthy life. Hobbies such as yoga, swimming and gardening can all help. Meditating for even ten to fifteen minutes a day can teach you better breathing techniques that are proven to lower blood pressure and decrease heart rate.

To learn more about heart health, sign up to follow the Million Hearts Initiative. You will receive messages and tips all year long to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and decrease your risk for heart disease.


Photo Courtesy of