Your Simple Guide to a Heart-Healthy February
It is more important than ever that we give our hearts what they need to be strong and healthy.
Heart disease, we know, is one of the underlying risk factors for a severe case of COVID-19. A person with a vulnerable heart is much more likely to experience troubling symptoms like low oxygen levels, unstable blood pressure, and even blood clots.
Not to get all fear-mongery, but this is becoming an increasingly unsettling reality. Especially given that 48% of American adults suffer from some form of cardiac illness, and 655,000 of these Americans will die from heart disease each year. That is 1 in every 4 deaths.
That sounds like a lot of doom and gloom, but here’s the great news: Research shows that as much as 80% of all cardiovascular disease can be prevented with a heart-healthy lifestyle. Moreover, with the right choices and changes, heart damage can be reversed.
So, in honor of American Heart Month, we are outlining several simple steps you can take to improve the health of your ticker, and how your Friday Health Plan can help along the way.
Set your heart health goals at your annual wellness exam
Every Friday health plan comes with a free annual wellness appointment with your primary care physician. This is a comprehensive preventive exam that includes tests, screenings, and shots. As part of this visit, your doctor will also review your health history with you and check for any signs of precursors of heart disease. Your free cardiovascular tests include:
- Blood pressure screening
- Cholesterol screening
- Diet counseling
- Obesity screening and counseling
- Aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer for adults 50 to 59 years with a high cardiovascular risk.
After running these tests, your doctor can make referrals to a cardiologist and recommend any further tests that need to be done. Don't have a primary care doctor yet? Find one near you.
This one is non-negotiable, folks. Smoking is a top three risk factor for heart disease, with little to no redeeming qualities. The chemicals in tobacco damage the heart and surrounding blood vessels, increasing your risk of arteritis, strokes, and ischemic heart disease.
And that’s in addition to the other harmful effects of smoking, like lung disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. For all these reasons, smoking can directly cause a more severe COVID-19 infection.
But here’s the amazing thing about quitting smoking: According to the American Cancer Society, after just 20 minutes of quitting your blood pressure will return to normal. And after just three months your lung function will increase.
Even crazier? After one year of quitting, your risk of heart disease decreases by half!
Exercise—even if it’s just for twenty minutes each day
Exercise is one of the best tools for strengthening your heart muscles. Exercise is so important, in fact, that if you don’t do it regularly, you’re more than twice as likely to develop heart disease.
The main type of exercise to focus on is aerobic fitness. Aerobic exercise—like walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling—improves circulation, which lowers blood pressure and heart rate. Experts recommend you get in at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. That’s 30 minutes for five days a week (about the amount of time it takes to watch an episode of Judge Judy).
Load up on heart-healthy eats
This is a lot easier said than done, especially in the winter, when we’re all craving comfort foods and savory, buttery meals. But the science tells us that cruciferous vegetables, healthy nuts, and nutritious lentils can have a huge positive impact on our hearts.
These are just some of the healthiest and most delicious foods that make our hearts happiest: Avocados, asparagus, whole grains, oranges, kale, fatty fish, dark chocolate, olive oil, and, of course, red wine.
No stress, no stress, no stress
Stress may not directly cause heart disease, but it can affect factors that increase our risk of cardiac trouble. From high blood pressure to overeating, symptoms of stress tax our hearts and thicken our arteries.
Our treatment of choice for stress? First, make sure you’re getting your eight hours of sleep. But then: Yoga. Yoga can help you relax, de-stress, and Zen out, while improving your balance and flexibility. It might also help your heart in more tangible ways, too. According to published research, yoga has the potential to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and is becoming a popular alternative treatment option.
Get your head and heart aligned with $0 mental health counseling
The research is becoming pretty clear on this: there’s a connection between mental illness and heart disease. People who have heart disease are more likely to develop depression and vice versa.
In fact, the growing body of evidence indicates people suffering from depression have a 64% greater risk of developing coronary artery disease.
We’re here to help you manage your mental health. On many of our health plans, we offer $0 in-network therapy and $0 Teladoc Mental Health visits.* With our great network of doctors, you can get therapy visits as much as you want, when you need it.
*Covers counseling visits only. Teladoc Mental Health visits are for members ages 18 and over.
See an in-network cardiologist. No referrals required
At Friday, we have a great network of expert cardiologists in your communities. Visit the provider search to find the heart doctor that fits your needs.
Best part about seeing a cardiologist (and any other specialist)? No referrals are required with your Friday Health Plan!
Be sure to review your health plan’s services and benefits on your member portal to find out the cost of seeing a specialist. This coverage varies by plan, so please also feel free to reach out to our Care Crew if you need clarity on anything or have questions.
Keep your ticker in tip-top shape with $0 generic prescription drugs
Put that wallet away. Many Friday plans come with access to thousands of $0 generic heart drugs before you spend a dime on the deductible. View Friday’s formulary page to see what generic drugs you can get at no cost or under $25.
As always, if you have any questions about your Friday health plan, services, or benefits, please reach out to our friendly customer service team at this link here.