What consistently ranks as the leading cause of death in the United States each year? If you guessed cardiovascular disease, you’re right. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cardiovascular disease kills approximately 655,000 people each year. With February being known as American Heart Month, let’s look at three ways to keep our hearts in tip-top shape.

Objects in motion stay in motion

Every year one in four deaths are caused by heart disease. The sad fact is that many of these may have been prevented by being less sedentary and more physically active.

Many people incorrectly associate exercise and physical activity with grueling hours of sweat and sore muscles. The truth of the matter is to improve overall cardiovascular health the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of more vigorous exercise per week. So, just 30 minutes a day, five times a week, of moderate, not back- breaking, activity can make a huge difference in the health of your heart.

Keep your waistline under control

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 70% of the American population is either overweight or obese. If most of the fat on your body is around your waist instead of your hips, referred to as central obesity, you are at a greater risk for heart disease.

Why is belly fat so bad? It is a sign of "visceral" fat that gathers around the organs of the abdomen and promotes insulin resistance and inflammation which negatively affect the heart. Men with a waist measurement greater than 40 inches and women with a measurement of more than 35 inches are high risk for developing serious heart conditions. The good news is that even a 5-10% drop in your current body weight can dramatically lower your risk of heart conditions related to obesity.

Get your shut-eye

Adequate sleep is necessary for us to function at our best, and a lack of quality sleep may indirectly lead to many negative consequences for the heart.

“Lack of sleep doesn’t necessarily cause heart disease, but it really increases the risk of heart disease,” said Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology and director of the Sleep Disorders Program at Northwestern University. Consistently getting fewer than six hours of sleep leads to an increase in the production of stress hormones such as cortisol, increased insulin resistance and less variability in the heart rate, keeping it elevated for longer periods. The National Sleep Foundation recommends everyone try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night.

If heart health matters to you, incorporate these simple tips into your daily life. The Bradley Wellness Center is a fantastic community resource to help you stay active and achieve your heart-healthy fitness goals. Offering everything from group fitness classes such as pilates and yoga to personal training to an indoor track and indoor lap pool, there is something for everyone.

Come by and check us out at 1225 Broadrick Drive near Hamilton Medical Center. Let’s make American Heart Month 2021 the beginning of a better you.

Jeremy Walraven is a fitness consultant at the Bradley Wellness Center.

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