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During the month of February, some of us may be thinking more about chocolate and roses than improving our heart health. But, if you think about it—what better gift can one give than the gift of a healthy heart? After all, a healthy heart is probably one of the single most important factors when it comes to enjoying many of life’s precious moments.

Follow these five easy steps to better understand key factors in your heart's health and begin your journey towards a healthier heart today.

5 Easy Ways to Boost Heart Health

Individuals of any age can start by taking steps to keep their heart healthy and functioning well. Small changes on a consistent basis result in significant differences over a longer period of time!

Make a few dietary changes. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, stock up on dark chocolate to potentially reduce blood pressure. The flavanols in dark chocolate can be essential in helping blood vessel walls to open wide. Incorporate this into your daily diet in moderation - a piece a day can help keep the doctors away! Consuming less salt is another dietary change which can help reduce the risk of developing heart conditions such as hypertension. Instead of salt, add fresh herbs and spices to meals to boost flavor, and try cooking at home more often in order to control sodium intake. When adding dressings to salad and pasta, choose one that is olive oil-based. The DHPEA-EDA in olive oil may serve to reduce damage to red blood cells. Finally, strive to eat more whole foods and less processed food to make strides in improving heart health.

Exercise on a regular basis. The heart responds to activity, and it can grow healthier with regular exercise. Running or jogging can make the coronary arteries more flexible, decreasing the possibility of developing atherosclerosis. The American Heart Association recommends exercising five times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes daily to reduce the risk of heart disease. Other alternatives include more vigorous aerobic activity combined with muscle-strengthening activities performed for a minimum of 3-4 days per week. Running is a great cardiovascular exercise, but if you're not ready to start there, even walking is incredibly beneficial to your heart!

Cut back on alcohol and smoking. Okay... this one may not be so simple for some, but we promise it will be worth the payout! Nixing smoking and limiting alcohol intake has major benefits to your heart's health. There are medications to help reduce the urge to light-up, and it may be useful to change routines that trigger the desire to smoke or order a drink. Some who are truly dependent on these substances may experience withdrawal symptoms, but those who stick with it will appreciate a range of benefits, including decreased depression and anxiety levels.

Pop on some jazz or other soft music. Research appears to show that listening to music with a slower tempo can calm the heart. Individuals listening to classical music may benefit from lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure and a reduced heart rate. This is just another reason to listen to a little Brahms while enjoying a romantic meal for two.

Pair up to improve heart health. Many find they benefit from working with a family member or friend to support each other’s efforts to get healthy! Those who team up with someone else often push each other to achieve new goals and feel more accountable to go to the gym or eat healthy. Working together to reach common goals can help partners feel more connected and also gain additional motivation to establish new habits.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heart disease remains the leading cause of death for Americans. Taking steps to reduce blood pressure and improve heart function may benefit yourself or someone you love! Get more information on taking preventative measures and improving your heart’s health from a MedPost healthcare professional today.

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Urgent Care Association of America