Every year, Americans spend upwards of $2 billion on candy hearts and similarly shaped boxes of chocolates – and it’s awesome. But it is also quite possible that we, as a society, should be spending a little bit more time taking care of the inspiration behind those celebratory gifts, to ward off heart disease and forever deny it the title of America’s #1 medically related killer.

Here are 14 Valentine-approved steps to a healthier heart:

  1. Move your body. Exercise tops the list. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic/cardio activity a week (swimming, biking, or jogging). In short, get your feet moving and your heart pumping for 30 minutes per day, for five days each week.
  2. Work your muscles. Strength and bodyweight training (pushups, pullups, squats) can help improve your body’s metabolic functions
  3. Stop smoking today.
  4. Know your numbers. Talk to your doctor about your good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. Many people are at risk for heart disease, but are completely unaware – and thus, unable to act.
  5. Regulate blood pressure. High blood pressure is also one of the primary risk factors for heart disease, so be sure to consult your family physician or a doctor at Quality First Urgent Care to determine your risk level. He or she will be able to recommend lifestyle changes and/or prescribe the necessary medications.
  6. Balance your diet. Consider eating more fatty fish and plant-based proteins, instead of red meat. More fresh fruits and veggies are always a plus, as is cutting out empty calories and sugars found in processed snacks and easy fast-food-type meals.
  7. Watch the salt. Experts recommend consuming less than 5 grams of salt per day to maintain a healthy heart. Most people consume far more without even realizing it. Keeping track of your intake and reducing it can also reduce your blood pressure significantly.
  8. Drink more water. Hydration is imperative for almost everything that we do. Without enough water, our hearts have to work overtime to pump blood. Experts recommend 8 glasses of water per day, give or take.
  9. Eliminate unnecessary stresses. Stress wears your body down, making it vulnerable to all sorts of medical problems – including heart disease. And recent years have not been easy on our collective stress levels. Still, take a breath. Take a walk. Walk away from the stresses you must handle so you can reapproach with a fresh outlook. Then walk away from the stresses you don’t need to handle, and don’t revisit them at all.
  10. Maximize your environment. Walking does wonders for your heart. So, get your steps in whenever possible. Whether you’re on the phone, running into the grocery store, or choosing between the stairs or the elevator – there are multiple opportunities throughout each day to walk a little bit more.
  11. Have some laughs. It’s no joke: laughing can give your heart rate a boost of up to 20 percent, reduce your blood pressure, and lower your risk of a heart attack? Is it the best medicine? Pretty close.
  12. Have some nuts. Believe it or not, eating a handful of nuts every day can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 50%.
  13. Get more Zzzs. Just like water, our bodies require ample sleep to function. Studies have shown that individuals who don’t get at least six hours per night are at higher risk for heart attack, while fatigue can also lead to compulsive, convenient (read: high-sugar and high-fat) snacking.
  14. Monitor your health. Blood pressure monitors can be purchased at big box stores and pharmacies, while downloadable apps and fitness wearables can help you keep track of your heart rate and other important measurements.

Questions? Talk to a doctor at Quality First Urgent Care about taking better care of your heart. Our team offers a wide range of medical services, and walk-in and telemedicine appointments are now available. Schedule an appointment online.