Blog Header

Public Health Essentials

A place to highlight the work of local public health as well as share health-related information and tips. Have an idea or question? Drop us a line at

View All Posts

Feb 14

Show your heart some love

Posted on February 14, 2023 at 12:18 PM by Kari Bray

Take a moment and clasp your hands in front of you.

Your clasped hands are about the size of your heart, the organ that beats more than 100,000 times a day to keep blood pumping through roughly 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.

The heart has a tough job, and often a thankless one. Let’s face it – most of us don’t always show our hearts as much care as they deserve.

For nearly a century, heart disease has been the top cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC. 

There are a variety of factors at play. We know that hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol are some of the major risk factors. A number of heart problems or risk factors can be inherited.

We also know that heart issues can be a silent killer.

The CDC estimates that 1 in 3 adults with high blood pressure don’t know they have it and are not taking steps to treat it. U.S. data also show that Black adults face a heavier burden of cardiovascular disease than white adults. And undiagnosed hypertension can be especially dangerous for pregnant women, contributing to complications during pregnancy and birth.

That all sounds a bit doom and gloomy, which admittedly isn’t good for the heart since mental and emotional stress puts strain on your body, too.

So let’s talk about the positives. 

There are a lot of ways to show your heart some love. Here are eight ideas you can use right now – or as soon as you’re ready – to improve your heart health.

  1. Get moving. Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your heart. How you fit more movement into your life might be different than how others choose to, but all of it counts. Doing 2.5 hours a week of exercise that gets your heartrate up is a good goal. However, the key takeaway is to move a little more than whatever you are already doing. Many people already exercise at least 2.5 hours a week. For others, it will take time and effort to hit that mark. Wherever you’re at, don’t be discouraged. You can walk, bike, swim, dance, stretch, and so much more – find what works for you. 
  2. Eat heart-friendly foods. Just like adding movement to your routine, it’s important to find where you can cut unhealthy foods and work in more healthy options. Keep it manageable and sustainable by choosing foods you enjoy and that work well in your day-to-day life. Drastic diets are more likely to fail. Some healthy options include lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins like nuts, seafood/fish, low-fat dairy, and lean meats. Things to limit or avoid include processed foods that are high in added sugar and salt.
  3. Be tobacco-free. If you are a current smoker or use other tobacco products, quitting is a powerful way to give your heart a boost. Quitting can be extremely difficult. If you’ve tried before and struggled, please don’t give up. There’s help available by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
  4. Reduce and manage stress. We know this one is easier said than done. Stress and other mental health concerns can put a lot of strain on your physical health. Prioritize self-care. Find time to breathe deeply, get outside, unplug and step away, and talk to people you trust to help ease your burdens. For chronic stress, anxiety, or depression, it’s a good idea to ask for help. In Washington state, health plans that include medical and surgical services must also cover medically necessary mental health services, according to the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner. If you’re uninsured, you can learn more about finding free or low-cost coverage at 
  5. Get enough sleepIf you regularly lose sleep, you increase the risk of heart disease and other factors that contribute to it, like obesity and diabetes. The exact amount of sleep your body needs may vary, but 7-9 hours is generally a good target for adults. You can improve sleep habits by having consistent times for going to bed and waking up, having a dark and quiet sleep space, avoiding electronic screens for an hour before bed, and eating a healthy meal a few hours before bed then not eating right before you sleep.
  6. Learn how to check your blood pressure. You’ll likely get your blood pressure checked when you go to the doctor, but it’s good to check it more often, especially if you have other risk factors or a family history of heart problems. Many pharmacies have machines where you can measure your blood pressure for free, no appointment required. Check out your regular pharmacy to see if they have one you can use the next time you stop in. You can also get an at-home blood pressure monitor, which may be something your doctor recommends if you’re at risk of heart problems or already have hypertension. If you’re not sure whether you should have an at-home monitor or how to use one, ask your doctor or healthcare team. 
  7. Know the signs of heart attack or stroke. Warning signs of heart attack can include chest pain, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, or pain in the jaw, neck, back, arm or shoulder. While the most common sign is chest pain, not everyone experiences the same warning signs, and women are more likely to experience other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, or back and jaw pain. For strokes, remember the acronym FAST – Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911. Other signs can include numbness, confusion, trouble seeing or walking, or severe headache with no known cause. If you or someone you are with is experiencing these symptoms, don’t hesitate to call 911. Immediate medical attention saves lives in these emergencies. Cardiac events can happen at any age, so don’t ignore symptoms. 
  8. Talk to your doctor. Regular medical appointments are important, even if you are generally healthy and don’t have urgent questions. A healthcare provider can help identify things you might miss. High blood pressure is one example. Most insurance plans have tools available to find providers who are covered by your insurance. Try to set up a primary care provider soon if you don’t have one. If you do have one, make sure you’re stopping in for an annual visit and reaching out when you have specific health concerns. Be honest with your doctor and ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. It can be hard to fit in time for an appointment and to admit when you are struggling with something health-related, or when you don’t understand information you’ve been given. But a regular appointment and honest conversation can make a world of difference in knowing your health risks and how to reduce them. 

Every step toward a healthier heart matters, and every day is a new opportunity to take those steps. 

Here’s to happy, healthy hearts in Snohomish County. 

Thanks for reading.

Health Department staff pose in a heart shape for Heart Health awarenessSnohomish County Health Department staff pose on Valentine's Day 2023 for Heart Health awareness


You must log in before leaving your comment