February is American Heart Month

The American Heart Association (AHA) sponsors American Heart Month each February to raise awareness about heart disease and how people can keep their heart healthy.

According to the NIH,

“Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. But you can do a lot to protect your heart and stay healthy.

Heart-healthy living involves understanding your risk, making choices, and taking steps to reduce your chances of getting heart disease, including coronary heart disease, the most common type. Coronary and other types of heart disease cause heart attacks, but by taking preventive measures, you can lower your risk of developing heart disease and also improve your overall health and well-being.”

The first step toward heart health is understanding your risks.

Some common risk factors include: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight or obesity, prediabetes or diabetes, smoking, do not get regular physical activity, family history of early heart disease (your father or brother was diagnosed before age 55, or your mother or sister was diagnosed before age 65), history of preeclampsia (a sudden rise in blood pressure and too much protein in the urine during pregnancy), unhealthy eating behaviors, aged 55 or older for women or age 45 or older for men.

The second step is taking the necessary precautions to avoid those risk factors.

1. Be sure to get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked often. If your numbers are high, work with your doctor to get them under control.

2. Eat healthy foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins are great options.

3. Aim for a healthy weight. Get regular physical exercise.

4. Manage your stress. “Research suggests that an emotionally upsetting event, particularly one involving anger, can serve as a trigger for a heart attack or angina in some people. Stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors. “

5. Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption.

6. Get enough sleep. “Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. Not getting enough sleep or good-quality sleep over time can raise your risk for chronic health problems.”