February is American Heart Month! Heart disease is a leading cause of death for women and men in the United States. Most middle-aged and young adults have one or more risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or being a smoker or overweight. Having multiple risk factors increases your risk for heart disease. People with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Routine preventative care can help manage and maintain your health including your heart health. When you schedule regular appointments and screenings, many risk factors, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, can be caught and treated before leading to heart disease. For employees enrolled in Mauser’s medical plan, preventative care is covered at 100% when using an in-network provider (note: preventive care that is out-of-network is not covered). Employees are encouraged to visit member.uhc.com to find an in-network physician and schedule their annual wellness exam. For International employees, medical coverage in most countries is provided through government healthcare systems. Check with your local Human Resources representative or your national health system for available resources.
Follow these heart-healthy lifestyle tips to protect your heart. It will be easier and more successful if you work on them with others, including by texting or phone calls if needed.
- Be more physically active
Invite family, friends, colleagues, or members of your community to join you in your efforts to be more physically active. Ask a colleague to walk “with you” on a regular basis. Get a friend or family member to sign up for the same online exercise class, such as a dance class. Grab your kids, put on music, and do jumping jacks, skip rope, or dance in your living room or yard.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
If you’re overweight, even a small weight loss of 5–10 percent helps your health. Find someone in your friend group, at work, or in your family who also wants to reach or maintain a healthy weight. (If you’re overweight, even a small weight loss of 5–10 percent helps your health.) Check in with them regularly to stay motivated. Agree to do healthy activities, like walking or cooking a healthy meal, at the same time, even if you can’t be together. Share low-calorie, low-sodium recipes. Check out NHLBI's Aim for a Healthy Weight web page for more ideas and guidance.
- Eat a nutritious diet.
We tend to eat like our friends and family, so ask others close to you to join in your effort to eat healthier. Together, try NHLBI’s free Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. Research shows that, compared to a typical American diet, it lowers high blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels.
- Quit smoking.
To help you quit, ask others for support or join an online support group. Research shows that people are much more likely to quit if their spouse, friend, or sibling does. Social support online can help you quit. All states have quit lines with trained counselors—call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). You’ll find many free resources to help you quit, such as apps, a motivational text service, and a chat line at hhs.gov and Smokefree.gov. More quit now assistance is made available to all US employees through EAP, Canadian employees through EFAP, and additionally, to those participating in either of the Mauser UHC medical plans. See your 2023 benefits information for full details.
- Reduce stress.
Reducing stress helps your heart health. Set goals with a friend or family member to do a relaxing activity every day, like walking, yoga, or meditation, or participate in an online stress-management program together. Physical activity also helps reduce stress. Talk to a qualified mental health provider or someone else you trust if additional support is needed to help reduce stress.
- Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep.
Sleeping 7–8 hours a night helps to improve heart health. De-stressing will help you sleep, as does getting a 30-minute daily dose of sunlight. Take a walk instead of a late afternoon nap! Turn off the screen and stick to a regular bedtime. Instead of looking at your phone or the TV before bed, relax by listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.
- Track your heart health stats.
Keeping a log of your blood pressure, weight goals, physical activity, and if you have diabetes, your blood sugars, will help you stay on a heart-healthy track. Ask your friends or family to join you in the effort.
For U.S. employees who are enrolled in a qualified Mauser medical, our Virgin Pulse initiative encourages employees to become, or stay, engaged in your own health by tracking your activity and rewarding you along your fitness journey. In addition to resources and tracking for exercise, Virgin Pulse offers a variety of tools to help you develop healthy food habits. These tools and resources can help you on your journey to establishing a heart healthy-lifestyle.
You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Small steps will get you where you want to go and it may be easier than you think to “put your heart” into your daily routine. For example, each Sunday, look at your week’s schedule and carve out 30 minutes daily for heart-healthy practices. Take an online yoga class, prepare a heart-healthy recipe, schedule your bedtime to get at least seven hours of sleep, or make a medication checklist. Then seek out support from others, even if it’s online or via a phone call, to help you stick to your goals.