Keep your heart healthy

First Posted: 1/29/2015

February is American Heart Health Month.

Although we usually associate the heart with love, especially during this month, it is also a fine time to think about our hearts in a different way.

How about asking how healthy is my heart?

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America for both men and women. It is the leading cause of disability, preventing many Americans from enjoying activities and working. Heart disease also costs the United States hundreds of billion dollars in medical services, medications and lost productivity each year.

Are you protecting your heart by knowing the risks of heart disease and doing your part to keep your heart healthy for you and your loved ones?

Many risk factors of heart disease can be managed and controlled by you! Some people fail to see that they can greatly affect their risk for disease- family history is not the only factor that comes into play.

One area you can personally manage is your diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. This includes incorporating fruits and vegetables into your daily intake — a goal of at least five per day should be a priority. Also, reduced sodium foods, foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol should be a focus.

Obesity can play a role in your risk for heart disease, so proper diet and weight control should be a high priority. Maintaining a healthy weight can go a long way in keeping your heart healthy. Work with a medical professional to determine your healthy weight range and a plan to achieve it. Continue to follow with your doctor throughout your weight loss journey and seek encouragement from others to assist in weight loss and maintenance.

The best way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is to increase physical activity. Physical activity also keeps the heart healthy and strong to prevent or decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease. The surgeon general recommends that adults should engage in moderate intensity activity for at least 150 minutes each week.

Exercise can easily be incorporated into daily activities by taking the stairs, parking further from entrances, shoveling snow instead of using a snowblower, doing push-ups or sit-up during television commercials, etc. Even 10-minute exercise increments throughout the day have been proved as effective exercise, so lack of time to exercise during the day should not be an excuse.

Tobacco use is another risk factor that you can manage and take control of. Never start smoking and if you already smoke, work to quit. Although quitting is by no means easy, the benefits to your body, especially your heart, are more than worth the tough road of breaking the addiction. Within days of quitting, your risk for cardiovascular disease starts to decrease and continues as the days, weeks, months and years go by.

Finally, make your health a priority by monitoring your cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood glucose levels on a regular basis and follow the guidance of your physicians. Take all medications that have been prescribed as directed.

Your heart health is up to you!

As you have read, there are many risk factors that can be controlled by your personal choices concerning diet, lifestyle choices and activity level. By keeping your heart health a priority, you can do your part to prevent and manage heart disease, one step and one heart at a time.

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