Tips for Leading a Heart-Healthy Life

February is American Heart Health month. Now is a great time to get educated about heart disease, check in on your health stats and learn new ways that you can lead a heart-healthy lifestyle.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease, is a term that encompasses a variety of conditions affecting the heart. In the US, it is the leading cause of death in both men and women. The good news is that many forms of heart disease can be prevented by making healthier lifestyle choices.

Keep reading to learn how you can lower your risk with support and services available right here in Putnam County.

Eat smarter.

Eating smarter is the first step in maintaining a healthy heart. Choosing to integrate more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and protein into your diet can improve overall health and lower your risk of developing both heart disease and diabetes. Consuming less salt/sodium, saturated fat and added sugar is also recommended.

A quick search online will give you tons of results for heart-healthy (and family-friendly) meals. Places we like to find recipes include:

For general heart-healthy cooking tips, click here.

In Putnam County, there are several programs that help families, youths and adults with limited resources eat healthier. Some of these include:

WVU Extension’s Family Nutrition Program (FNP)

The FNP encourages healthy lifestyle behaviors by:

  • Helping participants plan menus, read food labels and stretch their food dollars
  • Providing in-person and virtual food prep demonstrations
  • Using the USDA’s MyPlate and Dietary Guidelines to teach nutrition education
  • Improving availability and access to local community resources
  • And more!

To learn more about our local FNP, contact WVU Extension’s Putnam County Office or click here.

Facing Hunger Food Bank

If you or someone you live with has been diagnosed with a chronic health condition, like heart disease, you may be eligible to enroll in the Food Bank’s Medically Indicated Food Box program. This program delivers a food box once a month curated to meet specific dietary needs.  To learn more, reach out to or click here.

SNAP Stretch

SNAP Stretch is a program of the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition that lets SNAP/EBT users stretch their dollars to buy more fruit and vegetables. How it works: For every SNAP dollar spent on qualifying food products at local farmers’ markets or grocers, you receive a $1 match in SNAP Stretch tokens to spend on fruits and veggies. Kids and seniors receive double the tokens when they shop. For additional details about the program and to find participating SNAP Stretch locations, click here.

Move more.

Getting more physical exercise can help to lower your blood pressure and maintain a healthy heart. It can also help to reduce stress. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping aerobic exercise each week. Setting aside just 30 minutes of your day for an activity like jogging, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, tennis or pickleball can help you create a healthy lifestyle habit and achieve your goal.

To find places where you can get active in Putnam County, click here.

Kick bad habits.

If you’re someone who smokes or vapes, quitting it is one of the healthiest things you can do for your heart. If you need help breaking the habit, there are resources available. You can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to connect with a trained counselor in our area or talk to your primary care provider about options for quitting.

Consuming alcohol in moderation is also important for your heart’s health. Women should have one drink or less per day, and men should have two or fewer.

One drink is equal to:

  • A 12 oz. bottle or can of beer
  • A 5 oz. glass of wine
  • A 1.5 oz. shot of liquor or spirits

Know your numbers.

It’s important as you get older to learn how to monitor your cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and weight as these all affect cardiovascular health. A visit to the Health Department or to your primary care provider for initial screening is a good place to start. A medical professional can help you understand what your numbers mean and provide recommendations for lifestyle changes you may need to make to improve them. They can also teach you how to keep track of your numbers at home.

Get more restful sleep.

Deep, restorative sleep is essential to good cardiovascular health. You may not know that while you sleep, your blood pressure decreases. Conditions like sleep apnea and insomnia, as well as generally poor sleep quality, cause your blood pressure to stay higher for a longer period of time.

The CDC advises adults between 18 and 65 to aim for at least seven hours of good-quality sleep per night.

If you have trouble sleeping, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. They can offer solutions to help you achieve a better night’s rest.

For more information on sleep and heart health, click here.

Reduce stress.

Everyone feels and reacts to stress in different ways. When you feel stressed, you may be more likely to make poor health choices that are linked to increased risk for heart disease and stroke, such as:

  • Smoking,
  • Overeating,
  • Eating unhealthily,
  • Not exercising,
  • Gaining weight and
  • Not taking medications as prescribed.

Identify what your stressors are and try to find healthy ways to lessen and manage them. Exercising, stimulating hobbies and practicing relaxation are all recommended. If you find yourself dealing with chronic stress and anxiety, your primary care provider can help you find solutions.

For more information on stress and heart health, click here.