Eldering couple walking

It is important for your patients to know that being active can improve their heart health in a number of ways. It can help them maintain a healthy weight, improve circulation and lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.

The Million Hearts® program has fact sheets for both you and your patients on these physical activity guidelines.

Even if your patient isn’t interested in a full workout, you should encourage them to move more. The American Heart Association has some great examples of how people can work exercise into their everyday schedule like taking the dog for a walk, going window-shopping, and taking the stairs.

To engage your patients and make them more invested in their health, you can work with them to create an action plan. Have them set goals, plan ways to accomplish them, and identify possible barriers to success. Goals don’t need to be centered on test results! They can be as simple as walking all the way around the block or walking their daughter down the aisle. Tying health goals to a patient’s values can make them more engaged. For more information from the AHRQ about creating an action plan with your patient, click here.

Encourage your patients with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease to come to you before beginning a new exercise program. You can work together to set achievable goals and determine what types and amounts of physical activity would be best for them.

February is Heart Health Month. Awareness Saves Lives. Visit the American Health Association site for American Heart Month messaging, social media tools and resources for consumers and health professionals.

The Great Plains Quality Innovation Network has joined the fight to prevent heart attacks and strokes through the national Million Hearts® initiative. We are partnering with healthcare providers to ensure cardiac care is safe, appropriate and preventive measures are taken to get the best health outcomes possible. To get connected, join the Great Plains Learning and Action Network. It is an excellent way to access resources, materials and network with others. Join today!