Keeping your heart healthy: Steps to keep you on track

February is a great time to review tips to keep your heart healthy and prevent heart disease.

Pink and red heart.
Photo: Pexels/Karolina Grabowska.

February is American Heart Month. Why is this important? Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Michigan and has been for over a decade. Take time to celebrate the month by adopting one or more of the recommended steps from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to keep your heart healthy.

  • Eat a healthy and well balanced diet. Eating for heart health might be easier than you think. Make simple substitutions like eating fewer foods high in saturated fat. Try replacing butter with vegetable oils or replace whole-milk dairy products with low-fat versions. Choose leaner protein sources such as beans, nuts, eggs, poultry without skin, and fish. Cooking with less salt, reducing sugar and eating whole-grain products are additional changes you can make to your eating plan. You can find heart-healthy recipes online or check out a heart-healthy cookbook from your local library.
  • Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. There are often no signs and symptoms for high blood pressure. Your blood pressure needs to be checked regularly. Also talk to a healthcare provider about testing your cholesterol. You can ask a healthcare provider to explain what your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers mean. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, your healthcare provider might prescribe medication or suggest lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health numbers.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying extra weight on your body can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, you can determine your body mass index (BMI) through measurements. Talk with a healthcare professional about what a healthy weight is for you. Losing 3% to 5% of your starting weight can help lower blood glucose and triglyceride levels.
  • Move your body often. Every minute of physical activity you can do each day adds up. Moving your body can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults engage in moderate-intensity activity for at least 150 minutes per week. Incorporating movement into your daily routine can help you reach that goal. Gathering with friends and family to be physically active can be a great way to stay healthy and have fun.
  • Reduce stress. Stress is not healthy for your heart. To reduce stress, try an activity each day that is relaxing for you. MSU Extension offers online mindfulness sessions if you are looking for new activities and ways to reduce stress. Common stress-reducing activities are walking, practicing yoga, stretching, and meditation.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking contributes to heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. Research shows that social support helps when trying to quit smoking. Trained counselors (1-800-QUIT-NOW/1-800-784-8669) and free resources ( and are available.
  • Improve sleep habits. Many adults do not get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Tips for getting a better night’s sleep include getting regular physical activity, reducing stress, eliminating screen time before bed, and going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (including weekends). MSU Extension offers sleep education workshops where you will learn additional tips for getting a better night’s sleep.
  • Know your numbers. Work with your healthcare team to measure your blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and blood glucose. Keeping track of these important numbers can help you reach your heart health goals. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a worksheet to help you track your numbers and many useful resources to help you keep your heart healthy.

Share these tips with family and friends and take small steps together to keep your heart healthy every month of the year.

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