Monitor Your Heart Health During American Heart Month and All Year Round
24 February 2022
This week we are wrapping up American Heart Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness on heart health and to promote the prevention of heart ailments. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
To help members prioritize their heart health, Providence Health Plan (PHP) has tools and resources available year-round to help you understand your heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease. Below are some key steps you can take to monitor your own heart health.
Know Your Risk:
The first step in a heart healthy journey is understanding your risk of heart disease. Risk factors are conditions (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity) or habits (smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, an unhealthy diet) that make a person more likely to develop the disease. While some risk factors are out of one’s control, including family history or underlying health issues, many factors can be monitored or modified with the proper medical guidance.
If you are unsure of your risk level, your doctor can perform medical tests to monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol numbers. Although you can continue to self-monitor things like your blood pressure, your doctor may also make other recommendations, such as necessary medications or lifestyle adjustments. If you do not have a primary care physician, you can use the Providence Health Plan Provider Directory to search for one based on criteria such as cultural background, spoken languages and more. You can also use myProvidence to make sure a potential provider or facility is within the Providence network.
If your primary care physician recommends lifestyle changes but you aren’t sure where to begin, check out our prevention and wellness program, Basecamp, as a starting off point. The free online resource features healthy recipes, meditation tools, wellness guides, access to fitness classes and cooking demonstrations.
Living a healthy, active lifestyle also plays a critical role in proper heart health. Fitness guidelines published the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity physical activity and strength training twice a week to help reduce the risk of heart disease. If you are looking for inspiration or ideas for various exercise routines, the physical activity resources offers tips and resources to help you keep your body healthy.
PHP also makes it easy for you to live an active and well-rounded life through LifeBalance, a program that offers discounts on over 20,000 recreational, cultural and travel-related businesses and activities. LifeBalance’s savings include access to many activities that encourage exercise, nutrition or stress relief, making it easy and inexpensive to find an activity you enjoy that is also good for you. Our Active&Fit, Direct™ helps you stay motivated through access to more than 11,000 nationwide fitness centers and YMCAs for $25 a month as well as 5,500 free on-demand digital resources. It also features one-on-one, motivational, goal-oriented lifestyle coaching to help you achieve milestones in your health journey.
Once you commit to an exercise regimen, sharing your health goals with family members, friends, coworkers, or a health coach can also help you stick to your objective while creating lasting, heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
Make Healthier Choices:
Estimates from the CDC show that smoking can increase the risk for coronary heart disease by nearly two-to-four times. Not smoking or quitting smoking is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your overall health. If you are a smoker, PHP offers resources such as Smoking Cessation Classes, counseling-related services, and information on nicotine replacement medications that can help you stop smoking for good.
Eating a well-balanced diet that includes healthy, nutritious foods is another easy way to improve your heart health. The CDC counsels that a diet high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol has been linked to heart disease and related conditions, while diets high in sodium and added sugar can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease. However, a well-balanced diet that incudes whole-foods and vegetables maximizes nutrient intake and lowers the risk of heart disease. To help you stay on the right track with a healthy diet, resources such as nutrition guides can help you track servings for each of the main food groups and offer suggestions for small changes to eating habits that can have a big impact. PHP also has other resources that offer information on the potential risks and benefits of modern diet trends as well as the importance of essential nutrients in daily meals.
Prioritize Your Mental Health:
Did you know that stress can potentially contribute to an increased risk for heart disease? Did you also know that managing stress levels can help lower blood pressure and improve your overall health?
According to AHA, high levels of stress can raise risk factors for heart disease and increase your chances of having a stroke. If you who want to take control of your mental health, PHP has behavioral health services to help members reduce stress and practice mindfulness. Our Behavioral Health Concierge offers access to virtual confidential same-day or next-day appointments with Providence licensed mental health providers at no cost to members. Additionally, our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) helps employers implement an inclusive workplace culture that promotes mental health support and access to initiatives that encourage better lifestyle decisions such as proper nutrition and improved sleeping habits.
Although American Heart Month is almost over, you can implement heart healthy changes during any time of the year. There is never a bad time to take that first step in a healthy heart journey and you can be confident that PHP is here to support you along the way.