FEBRUARY IS AMERICAN HEART MONTH
Along with Valentine’s Day, February marks American Heart Month, a great time to commit to a healthy lifestyle and make small changes that can lead to a lifetime of heart health and encourage families, friends and communities to become involved.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths in the United States. Nearly half of Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, or an unhealthy diet. Risk also increases with age. The good news is that individuals of all ages can reduce their risk for heart disease by making lifestyle changes and managing medical conditions through appropriate treatment plans. With a record number of young adults living at home or in close contact with older relatives, they have a golden opportunity to encourage parents and other family members to make heart-healthy changes and offer support along the way.
Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference – start by taking some small steps, and encouraging others to do so, during the month of February and beyond to improve heart health. Here are some examples of healthy heart behaviors:
- Schedule a visit with your doctor to talk about heart health. It’s important to schedule regular check-ups even if you think you are not sick.
- Know your numbers. Schedule a visit with your doctor to learn your personal health numbers including – Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Blood Sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI) to assess risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
- Add exercise to your daily routine. Start off the month by walking 15 minutes, 3 times each week. By mid-month, increase your time to 30 minutes, 3 times each week.
- Increase healthy eating. Cook heart-healthy meals at home at least 3 times each week and make your favorite recipe lower sodium. For example, swap out salt for fresh or dried herbs and spices.
- Take steps to quit smoking. If you currently smoke, quitting can cut your risk for heart disease and stroke. Learn more at CDC’s Smoking and Tobacco Use website.
- Take medication as prescribed. Talk with your doctor about the importance of high blood pressure and cholesterol medications. If you’re having trouble taking your medicines on time or if you’re having side effects, ask your doctor for help.
Show your support for heart health through these activities:
- Join Million Hearts® and Men’s Health Network for more information on how to maintain a healthy heart, including tips for controlling blood pressure, eating healthy, and staying active. Also visit their Facebook pages.
- Keep the conversation going offline by talking about the importance of heart health with your friends, neighbors, and loved ones.
- Turn your next get-together into a healthy get-together! Download the Healthy Get-Together Planning Guide.
- Celebrate American Heart Month and raise heart disease awareness for women by participating in National Wear Red Day.
It is important to point out that Kentucky is one of the unhealthiest states in our nation; but, a few healthy lifestyle choices could change this. First, eating normally proportioned helpings of nutritious foods including at least five fruits and vegetables a day can lower weight and reduce heart disease and diabetes. Second, exercising about 30 minutes per day can lower blood pressure. Third, avoiding the use of tobacco products can reduce several types of cancer. Finally, making sure you get your needed preventive screenings can detect diseases early and greatly increase your chances for a positive health outcomes, while receiving your recommended vaccinations can prevent acquiring disease in the first place.