TWIN FALLS, Idaho — February marks Heart Health Month, and despite the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, officials from St. Luke's want to reiterate the importance of keeping your heart healthy and staying fit.
Heart Health Month is sponsored by the American Heart Association and focuses on raising awareness for keeping your heart in shape and preventing heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, and other heart conditions.
“The heart is a muscle, and as we work on improving the way the heart functions, it helps our whole body feel better,” said St. Luke's Manager of Lifestyle Medicine Dr. Monique Middlekauff.
Experts say it's important to know your potential risk factors for heart disease and stroke. That starts by "knowing your numbers."
“Patients should know what their cholesterol is, what their blood pressure is, what their weight is," explains Dr. Mark Crandall, Medical Director of Cardiology for St. Luke's. "Patients should know what those numbers are so they can really look at their risk and see if they need to have any additional medications. They should make sure they have a healthy lifestyle.”
One of the aspects of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is exercise, something doctors say you can do from home even in the time of COVID.
“Something as simple as marching in place, stepping side to side, doing heel kickbacks, doing a sit to stand out of the chair or a squat, doing calf raises. Those are very simple movements that require no equipment whatsoever,” said Middlekauff.
Having a well-balanced nutritious diet is also key to being heart-healthy.
“The good fats are unsaturated fats that come from plants, so olive oil, in particular, is very healthy. The bad fats are the saturated fats that come from red meat. And the carbs also have good and bad carbs, so good carbs are whole grain, fiber, like oatmeal, and whole grains. The bad types of carbs are sugar, so high fructose corn syrup or sugar are the things we want to avoid,” said Dr. Crandall.
Doctors say they're aware these changes may not happen overnight so they encourage people to make changes at their own pace.
"Often we tend to think about making drastic changes in our health and either being on your diet or off your diet, or we're exercising or we're not. The small changes that we do in the small behaviors that we make throughout the day is really what adds up to a healthy lifestyle," said Middlekauff.
Despite Heart Health Month nearing its end, Dr. Middlekauff wants people to continue to take care of themselves as best as they can and to seek help if something feels wrong.
“If you’re noticing changes in your heart health whether it's chest pain or something that doesn’t feel quite right. Don't delay, go see your healthcare provider right away.”