7 Ways to Protect Your Heart Health

Every February, we honor American Heart Month, but what is the significance of bringing awareness to this cause? Heart disease kills more people in the US than any other illness, accident, or condition. Continued attention is necessary to educate the public about what you can do to protect your heart health. 

Lake Region Insurance Agency knows the importance of protection in all areas. We assist clients with insurance options for health, life, home, and auto. Affordable and comprehensive health insurance is one of the key pieces of personal wellness, so reach out to us for a quote. 

Protect Your Heart Health Every Day

Cardiovascular disease claims a life in the United States every 36 seconds. But this devastating number can change for the better when we establish new, healthier habits. To help you live your healthiest life, consider these seven ways you can protect your heart health. 

1. Move At Least 30-60 Minutes Each Day

A woman power walking for heart health.
For many with busy lives, spending two hours at the gym is unrealistic. However, the goal is to have 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week. You can break this down to best fit your schedule, aiming for 30 minutes of brisk physical activity a day. This level of activity includes a fast walk or bike ride.

Even short bursts of exercise broken up throughout the day are sufficient to meet the goal. Also, to help with bone health and muscle strength, remember to include two sessions of strength exercise every week. Regular strength training over time will help to maintain normal blood pressure. 

If you are active and participate in vigorous aerobic activity such as running, you can see heart benefits if you reach 75 minutes each week. Consider adding a yoga practice for the added stress reduction benefits that will also help to protect your heart health. 

2. Please Quit Smoking

The best health change you can make to protect your heart health is to quit smoking. Avoiding secondhand smoke is also critical to keeping your heart, lungs, and entire body healthy.

Smoking reduces the oxygen in your blood, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. These effects make it harder for the heart to do its job. The great news is the heart can recover. One year after quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease drops to half of that of a smoker. 

3. Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

Healthy fruits and vegetables in a heart shaped bowl.
Your food choices play a tremendous role in protecting your heart health. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes all have heart-protection benefits. Beans, peas, and other legumes help lower your bad cholesterol thanks to their high fiber content. 

Eating less red meat is another way to protect your heart. Make it easy by choosing poultry or fish options a few times a week. If you are ready to explore vegetarian food, there are plenty of meat substitutes now available. You can still enjoy great flavors without red meat.

Avoid processed foods and focus on fresh produce in your food choices. You can reduce your heart disease risk by adding just one serving each of fruits and vegetables into your diet. 

4. Get Sufficient Sleep

Sleep has many health benefits:

  • Mental Health Support
  • Healthy Weight Maintenance
  • Cancer Prevention
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Lower Cholesterol

For the best heart health, strive for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Establish a regular sleep schedule by waking up and going to bed at the same time daily. Avoid screens for at least an hour before you want to sleep. Keep your bedroom dark and cool to promote a restful night.

If you are worried about sleep apnea, be sure to seek a medical evaluation. Sleep apnea can significantly increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. The common signs include loud snoring, breaks in breathing during sleep, or waking up feeling the need to gasp for air. You can manage sleep apnea with a CPAP device that keeps the airways open while you sleep. 

5. Find a Way to Manage Your Stress

A woman meditating for heart health.
Stress management is one of the most important things you can do to protect your heart health. We can’t control all of the things that cause stress. But we can learn how to respond to them in a healthy way. Avoid coping with stress through unhealthy habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking, or overeating. 

Find healthy alternatives to stress management, such as exercise and yoga. Or establish a meditation routine through the use of an app or website. Hobbies such as reading, journaling, cooking, or creating art are helpful, too. 

6. Go to Your Doctor Regularly

Don’t skip your yearly physical with your doctor, and be sure to talk to them if you have concerns about heart disease. Take time to learn about any family history of heart disease and share this information with your physician. 

As part of your exam, your doctor should check for high blood pressure and cholesterol since both contribute to heart disease. These conditions are manageable with lifestyle adjustments and appropriate medication.

You may also want to discuss a weight management program with your physician to keep your BMI in an ideal range. Your doctor may suggest a cardiac diet or creative ways to include exercise into your daily life to help get you to a healthy weight.

7. Treat Yourself to Some Chocolate 

A woman eating dark chocolate for the heart health benefits and smiling.
If you feel like you need a lot of restrictions to protect your heart health, hang on. There is also chocolate. 

Dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao can lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke in reasonable amounts. A bite or two a day is plenty to reap the benefits. Overindulging will create the opposite effect. 

Chocolate may dilate the blood vessels to prevent plaque build-up in the arteries. And it has antioxidants to help fight inflammation in the heart and throughout the body. So don’t worry about treating yourself to the right, heart-healthy dessert a few days a week. 

Where Can I Get More Information on Health and Life Insurance? 

Paper cut outs of a family being held safely in someone's hands.
Whether you need health insurance or other coverage, Lake Region Insurance Agency can help you find the right plan. We are a team of independent agents with three locations to serve Greater Minnesota. 

Contact us or stop by our offices in Willmar, Cokato, or New London, MN, to discuss how we can help you today.


How Do I Purchase Private Health Insurance For My Family?

Right now, millions of Americans are without medical coverage. This situation is leading many to wonder how they can purchase private health insurance for themselves. 

Medical debt can be devastating and is a significant contributor to people needing to file for bankruptcy. One hospitalization can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. If tests or procedures are necessary, the bill can skyrocket. Even outpatient costs can be shockingly high if there is no medical insurance in place.

Lake Region Insurance Agency is proud to serve its neighbors in Greater Minnesota. Our independent brokers are not tied to one company or product to find the right fit for you.  

Our health insurance products cover individuals, families, and businesses. Let us assist you in making a sound and informed decision about your health insurance needs. Call today for an insurance review or quote. 

Purchase Private Health Insurance on the Marketplace

Private health insurance is medical coverage that does not come through an employer. Job-based insurance only remains while you work for that employer. If your job ends, you are no longer eligible for their group health insurance plans.

To buy your own policy, it is best to work with an independent insurance broker to find the right option. Most people who need private insurance go through the health insurance marketplace. It has information about the available options and how to buy insurance. In Minnesota, the marketplace used to purchase private health insurance is MNSure

Need to buy private medical insurance

By using the marketplace, also known as the health insurance exchange, you may receive credits to lower your private health insurance premiums. Brokers help find the plan that will cover your needs and give you the full assistance for which you qualify. 

Typically, you need to provide documentation of your household’s income. So the exchange may ask for pay stubs and tax returns to verify your eligibility for the marketplace policies.

If you qualify for low-income or free health insurance, you will not purchase coverage from the marketplace. In this case, insurance options will be available through a government-sponsored program such as Medical Assistance or Minnesota Care. The Department of Human Services manages these programs. 

Affordable Care Act

All plans offered on the health insurance marketplace meet the Affordable Care Act (ACA) baseline for benefit standards. The ACA is the legislation that provides financial help in the form of tax credits or subsidies when buying insurance. 

Individuals and families have to fall within specified income ranges to qualify, and it can be quite confusing to understand all the intricacies. Though you can shop and compare plans yourself, many people prefer to work with an independent broker. This step can bring significant peace of mind.

Open Enrollment Periods for Private Health Insurance 

Every year, the health insurance exchange has a designated open enrollment period when you can purchase new coverage. In most states, this period runs from the beginning of November through mid-December, but be sure to check with your broker for specific dates.

Open enrollment dates for medical insurance

You could be eligible for a special enrollment period if you experience a qualifying life event. These events include:

  • Job Loss – Even if you leave a job voluntarily, if it causes you to lose insurance, you likely will be eligible for a special enrollment period.
  • Finishing College – Many students are on their parent’s medical plan. But once they are no longer in school, they must get their own coverage.
  • Divorce – If you had insurance under a spouse’s plan, you might be able to enroll in a new policy outside of open enrollment.
  • Moving Towns – Some insurance plans only cover specific areas. If you move outside your insurer’s service area, you should be eligible for special enrollment.
  • Family Size Changes – A special enrollment period begins if you have a child, adopt a child, or a child moves out of your household. 

Typically, you have 60 days from the qualifying life event to purchase a new plan. Your broker will be able to help with this.

Private Health Insurance Company Options

You also can purchase your medical coverage directly from an insurance company rather than through the exchange. If you don’t qualify for subsidies or don’t want to take advantage of them, this can be a simpler path.

Your independent agent will work with you to determine the right fit. They will look at your preferred doctors and hospitals and any medications you need to cover. Then they show you the options available and help you choose one and enroll.

How To Choose the Right Private Health Insurance Plan

There is a lot to consider when selecting a plan. For most people, they will have the policy for at least a year due to enrollment restrictions. So, you want to find the best option for your needs.

It is helpful to estimate your current healthcare costs before you purchase private health insurance for your family. Having a clear picture of ongoing medications and treatments will guide you as you select a coverage plan.

Using an Insurance Broker

The health insurance world is confusing. Whether you use the marketplace or not, it is challenging for non-experts to know all of the intricacies of different options. 

An independent broker will help remove the confusion. They do this all day long and understand all the jargon and terminology. And they can look at all available plans quickly to give you the best information possible.

When working with an agent, be ready to provide the following information:

  • Preferred Providers
  • Preferred Hospitals or Facilities
  • List of Prescription Drug Needs
  • List of Ongoing Therapies – physical, speech, occupational, etc.

Your health insurance broker will be able to save you time and money while they search for the perfect product to meet your needs

Let Us Help You with This Critical Piece

Do not risk financial devastation by going without health insurance. Let the Lake Region Insurance Agency team find the right fit for your circumstances. 

Our friendly staff has been caring for our neighbors in Willmar, Cokato, and New London, MN, for years. Stop in or give us a call today to get started on finding your next medical policy.