February american heart health month

February: American Heart Health Month

With Valentine’s Day less than two weeks away, many of us view February as the month of love. However, February is also designated as American Heart Health Month. In addition, on the first Friday of every February (this year is February 7th), the nation comes together, donning the color red from coast to coast, for National Wear Red Day, celebrating one common goal: the eradication of heart disease and stroke.

American Heart Health Month is a federally designated event that was proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on December 30, 1963 to encourage Americans to join the battle against heart disease. This annual, month-long celebration helps remind Americans to focus on their heart and encourages their involvement with family and friends, and within their communities.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death of Americans. According to the American Heart Association, approximately 2,200 people die each day from heart disease. In addition, about 1.3 million adults have high blood pressure and 6.5 million are living with heart failure.

Heart disease is being diagnosed in younger adults more and more often. High rates of obesity and high blood pressure among young people are putting them at risk of heart-related diseases at an earlier age. Although genetic factors play a role in heart-related conditions, nearly 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases may be preventable with education and lifestyle changes.

How to Take Control of Your Heart Health

Don’t Smoke – Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders including atherosclerosis and a buildup of fatty substances in the arteries. So, if you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn how to quit – there are numerous helpful resources out there.

Managing Your Health – Work with your health professionals to manage your weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. All of these factors play a significant role in maintaining a healthy heart.

Stay Physically Active – Heart pumping physical activity helps prevent cardiovascular disease as well as improves your overall mental and physical health.

The American Heart Association recommends five 30-minute exercise sessions each week. If this seems a little daunting, break these sessions up into two or three 10-15 minute segments throughout the day. Walking, jogging, biking and swimming are great forms of cardiovascular exercise. The American Heart Association also recommends adding moderate to high-intensity strength training into your sessions to improve daily functional movements and decrease the chance of injury.

Make Heart-Healthy Eating Choices – A diet low in trans-fat, saturated fat, added sugar and sodium is essential to a healthy heart and lifestyle. Aim to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables and fruit. Salmon, nuts, berries and oats are just a few of the heart “superfoods,” that may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. As a special treat, add dark chocolate, in moderation, to the list – it’s good for the heart and satisfies the sweet tooth.

Reduce Stress – Stress increases cortisol, a steroid hormone, which can lead to weight gain, a key risk factor in heart disease. Stress can also lead to other unhealthy habits including overeating and excessive alcohol consumption. Stress can also increase the risk of anxiety and depression.

Get Plenty of Rest – Many Americans today are sleep deprived. Sleep restores the body, helps decrease stress and anxiety and increases overall happiness.

With all this said, “get your red on” and make this February the beginning of healthy habits and lifestyle changes. Your heart will thank you!

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