Improve Your Heart Health – With Friends and Family
Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Most adults have one or more risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or being a smoker or overweight. Having multiple risk factors increases your risk for heart disease.
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 by texting or phone calls if needed. You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Small steps will get you where you want to go.
Incorporate movement into your daily life. While we’re still social distancing, ask someone to virtually walk “with you” on a regular basis. Text or call to make sure you both get out for a walk. Or get a friend or family member to sign up for the same online exercise class. Make it a regular date! As your ability permits, try marching in place, jumping jacks, or yoga and stretching (check with your doctor first).
Aim for a healthy weight
Find someone in your friend group or in your family who also wants to reach or maintain a healthy weight. (If you’re overweight, even a small weight loss of 5% to 10% helps your health.) Check in with them regularly to stay motivated. Agree to do healthy activities, like walking or cooking a healthy meal, at the same time, 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, DASH eating lowers high blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels. Find delicious recipes at NHLBI’s Heart-Healthy Eating web page.
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).
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 qualified mental health provider or someone else you trust.
Improve your sleep
Sleeping seven to eight hours a night helps 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! Family members and friends: Remind each other to turn off the screen and stick to a regular bedtime. Instead of looking at your phone or the TV before bed, relax by listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.
Track your heart health stats, together
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.