February is American Heart Month!
Did you know that people who have close relationships at home, work, or in their community tend to be healthier and live longer? One reason, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is that we’re more successful at meeting our health goals when we work on them with others. NHLBI launched the #OurHearts movement to inspire us to protect and strengthen our hearts with the support of others.
Here are some facts, how-to tips, and resources to inspire you to join with others, even if you can’t be physically together, to improve your heart health.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, and as many of us know, hours of sitting in a truck can create an increased risk for our truck drivers. By middle age, most people have one or more risk factors — diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being a smoker or being overweight. Having multiple risk factors increases your risk for heart disease.
Why Connecting is Good for Your Heart
Feeling connected with others and having positive, close relationships benefit our overall health, including our blood pressure and weight. Having people in our lives who motivate and care for us helps, as do feelings of closeness and companionship.
Follow these heart-healthy lifestyle tips to protect your heart. It will be easier and more successful if you work on them with others, including texting and calls if needed.
- Be more physically active.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a nutritious diet.
- Quit smoking.
- Reduce stress.
- Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep.
- Track your heart health stats.
You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Small steps will get you where you want to go.
Invite family, friends, colleagues, or members of your community to join you in your efforts to be more physically active:
- Ask someone to walk with you on a regular basis, put the date your calendars and remind to make sure you take that walk.
- Get a friend or family member to sign up for the same online exercise class. Make it a regular date!
- Grab your kids, put on music, and dance, do jumping jacks, or play an active game.
How much is enough? Aim for at least 2½ hours of physical activity each week— just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition, do muscle strengthening exercises 2 days a week. Can’t carve out a lot of time in your day? Chunk it! Exercise 15 minutes a few times a day. Truck drivers, get out and stretch and take a short walk on your break. This Move More fact sheet has ideas to get and keep you moving.
Aim for a healthy weight
Find someone in your circle who also wants to reach or maintain a healthy weight. (even a small weight loss of 5–10% improves your health.) Check in regularly to stay motivated. Agree to do healthy activities, like walking, cooking a healthy meal, yoga. Do them at the same time as your buddy, even if you can’t be together.
We tend to eat like our friends and family, so ask others close to you to join in your effort to eat healthier. Together, try NHLBI’s free Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. Research shows that, compared to a typical American diet, it lowers high blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels.
To help you quit, ask others for support or join an online support group. Research shows that people are much more likely to quit if their spouse, friend, or sibling does. All states have quit lines with trained counselors—call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). You’ll find many free resources to help you quit, such as apps, a motivational text service, and a chat line at BeTobaccoFree.hhs.gov and Smokefree.gov.
If you need extra motivation to quit, consider those around you: Breathing other people’s smoke, called secondhand smoke, is dangerous. Many adult nonsmokers die of stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.
Reducing stress helps your heart health. Set goals with a friend or family member to do a relaxing activity every day, like walking, yoga, or meditation, or participate in an online stress-management program together. Physical activity also helps reduce stress. Talk to a mental health provider if you need additional support.
Sleeping 7–8 hours a night helps to improve heart health. De-stressing will help you sleep, as does getting a 30-minute daily dose of sunlight. Take a walk instead of a late afternoon nap! Turn off the screens and stick to a regular bedtime. Relax by listening to music or a podcast or read a good book.
Track Your Heart Health Stats
Keeping a log of your blood pressure, weight goals, physical activity, and if you have diabetes, your blood sugars, will help you stay on a heart-healthy track. Ask your friends or family to join you in the effort. Check out NHLBI’s Healthy Blood Pressure for Healthy Hearts: Tracking Your Numbers worksheet.
Visit #OurHearts for inspiration on what others around the country are doing together for their heart health. Then join the #OurHearts movement and let us know what you’re doing to have a healthy heart. Tag #OurHearts #LilyTransportation to share how you and your family and friends are being heart healthy. We have a very special place in our hearts for America’s truck drivers and hope you all stay heart healthy and safe out there!