Are You Being Good to Your Heart?

a person makes a heart out of their hands and holds it up to the sun

Along with Valentine’s Day, February marks American Heart Month, a great time to commit (or recommit) to a healthy lifestyle and make small changes that can lead to a lifetime of heart health.

The good news: If you’re already in recovery, you’ve taken a great first step in the right direction. You may already know that abusing drugs and alcohol can do a number on your heart, putting you at risk for a number of severe health conditions, including:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Endocarditis
  • Myocarditis
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Arterial thrombosis
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Fatal heart attack

And it’s not just the “hard” drugs that do damage. Smoking cigarettes can lead to clogged arteries, blood clots and lower levels of good “HDL” cholesterol. And a person’s risk of suffering a heart attack within an hour of smoking marijuana is five times higher than his or her normal risk.

5 Heart-Healthy Habits
Beyond committing to your recovery, there are more heart-smart moves that you may have let slipped while in active addiction. Here are a few:

Brush and floss daily. Poor oral hygiene can cause bacteria to get into your bloodstream and fatty plaques in your arteries to swell, increasing your risk of heart disease. Some helpful reminders: Replace your toothbrush every three months and schedule those six-month cleanings.

Keep stress in check. While the specific link between stress and heart disease has yet to be determined, anxiety has been study-proven to lead to unhealthy behaviors (smoking and overeating, for instance) that are bad for your ticker. Make an effort this month (and beyond) to practice relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation.

Scale back on sodium. The average American gets 3,436 milligrams of sodium per day — more than double the recommended amount, according to the American Heart Association. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Read labels and watch out for sneaky sodium bombs in the following foods:

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Breads
  • Canned beans and vegetables
  • Soups

Pump up your potassium. Loading up on potassium-rich foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, spinach and beans can help counteract the risks associated with high sodium, including hypertension and heart disease.  

Stick with seafood. If you eat fatty fish (salmon, herring, sardines, albacore tuna) at least twice weekly, you could reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack by a third or more, according to the Mayo Clinic. Not a fan of fish? Talk to your doctor about supplements.

Living Sober, Living Healthy
Our Philadelphia sober living residence encourages and incorporates activities and attainable daily goals that reflect a strategy toward a sustainable recovery and personal wellness. To learn more, call (866) 247-3307.

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