When most think about February, the thought of Valentine’s Day often comes to mind, along with red roses, heart-shaped balloons, candy, and lots of chocolate! Though for many, and especially those who have been diagnosed with cardiac disease and/or endured heart attacks, the nation’s observance of Heart Month by the American Heart Association (AHA), may be of more personal importance.
Heart disease and stroke claim more lives each year in the United States than all forms of cancer and chronic respiratory diseases, combined. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults in the United States.
More than 877,500 Americans die of heart disease or stroke every year, totaling one-third of all deaths. These health anomalies take not only a physical and emotional toll but also an economic toll, costing our healthcare system $216 billion per year and $147 billion in lost employment productivity.
As a result of, the AHA’s annual observance offers a wealth of information covering comprehensive directives on how to keep your heart healthy, along with extensive reminders on the importance of exercise and eating nutritiously. Though one cannot change all personal risk factors for heart disease, such as family history, everyone can take initiatives to lower the risk.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the best things anyone can do for their heart is to stop smoking and using smokeless tobacco. Accordingly, it also is advisable to stay away from secondhand smoke. Further, engaging in at least 30 to 60 minutes of activity daily is important. Physical exercise also lowers the prospect of acquiring other conditions which may put a strain on the heart like high blood pressure.
A heart-healthy diet
A healthy diet also can help protect the heart, balance cholesterol levels, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. A heart-healthy eating plan includes:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Beans or other legumes
- Lean meat and fish
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy foods
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats such as avocados and olive oil
Two examples of heart-healthy food plans, also according to the Mayo Clinic, include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). Thus, it is important to take in less of the following additives:
- Salt or high-sodium meals.
- Sugar or sweetened beverages
- Highly refined carbohydrates
- Highly processed food and meats
- Saturated fat, in red meat, full-fat dairy products, palm oil and coconut oil.
- Trans fat, found in fried fast food, chips, and baked goods.
Healthy habits for your heart
At least 7 hours of sleep is also recommended. Those who don’t attain enough sleep have a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and even depression, plus an elevated risk of heart attacks.
Similarly, ongoing stress can play a role in higher blood pressure. Stress can be alleviated by doing physical activity, relaxation exercises, yoga, and meditation.
Also, make sure to have regular health physicals and screenings. Finally, take steps to prevent infections. Certain infections may lead to heart problems. For instance, gum disease may be a risk factor for heart and blood vessel diseases. So, brush and floss daily. Get regular dental checkups, too.
For more information on early warning signs and symptoms of cardiac disease, go to the CDC’s website, at https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/heart_attack.htm
With Valentine’s Day, historical birthdays, commemorations and remembrances, the month of February has a variety of observances, but most importantly, a month to live your healthiest life possible, and a reminder to keep your heart healthy, as both educated, and celebrated by the American Heart Association.