February is American Heart Health Month, a nationwide observance dedicated to empowering everyone to make heart-healthy choices and fight back against heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day.  Travaasa Experiential Resorts also celebrates Heart Month each February, highlighting experiences and programming designed to support both physical and emotional heart health. In observance of heart health awareness, here are a few tips on practicing healthy habits and keeping your ticker in tip-top shape. 

Reduce Stress Stress is the leading cause of heart disease in the United States, and that can most certainly be attributed to the “GO GO GO” mentality that plagues our culture. Reducing stress isn’t always everyone’s top priority, but it should be. High stress levels over a long period of time increase blood pressure and eventually can lead to stroke or heart attack. A few ways to reduce stress include meditating, reading a book, taking a walk, jogging, cooking, yoga, playing board games, journaling… the list goes on. Reducing stress sometimes just means changing the thought process long enough so that the brain can take a break and just relax. The technique of relaxing doesn’t always come easily, but it should be a top priority for maintaining overall heart health throughout one’s lifetime. 

Avoid Sodium & Saturated Fats High amounts of sodium increase blood pressure, which in turn, puts stress on your heart. Maintaining a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients is the first step to optimum heart health. Avoid processed food whenever possible (processed foods have very high sodium levels) and opt for fresh ingredients when possible. The average person should consume no more than 2,000 mg of sodium each day (per the average 2,000 calories/day). Most Americans consume more than twice that amount of sodium in one day. Test your own sodium intake by reading the nutrition information on everything you eat for one day. The amount of salt contained in your favorite foods is shocking.  In addition to watching sodium intake, the amount of saturated fats in our diet should be monitored as well. Avoid foods high in saturated fats, and cook with olive oil, grape seed oil or almond oil versus butter and cream. 

Exercise Regularly To maintain hearth health, the average person should get at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five days per week. Keep in mind, this is the minimum amount of exercise recommended. The ideal exercise goal would be an hour long workout, five days a week, all year round. A balanced workout routine should contain 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and 30 minutes of strength training.