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Tips for a healthy heart

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February is American Heart Month and a great time to assess what you can do every day to help keep your heart healthy.

Diet and exercise are the key to a healthy heart.

Exercise your heart with regular activity. Avoid sitting for long stretches by taking short walks, park farther away from the office or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity spread throughout the week.

A heart-healthy diet also includes foods low in saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium. Healthy fats like avocados, cheese, eggs and fish have many benefits to your heart.

Avocados are about 77 percent fat, by calories, making them even higher in fat than most animal foods. Avocados are very high in potassium, which supports healthy blood pressure levels.

Another important part of maintaining a healthy heart is to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can put you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Make sleep a priority by getting 7-8 hours of sleep most nights.

One study looking at 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Researchers believe sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes, including blood pressure and inflammation.

Dental health is also important for heart health. Gum disease can move into the bloodstream and cause inflammation in the blood vessels which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. It is recommended to have your cholesterol checked at least every 4-6 years, and have your blood pressure checked regularly.

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