February is American Heart Month and there’s no better time than now to pay careful attention to your heart health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Additionally, February is Valentine’s Day and Black History/African-American History month and according to statistics, 40 percent of African Americans suffer from high blood pressure, putting them at risk for strokes and heart disease. Recognizing the importance of heart health during February crosses over to multiple areas and observances.
Knowing risk factors is key to improving your heart health and increasing longevity. When it comes to heart health, prevention is your strongest weapon. Lifestyle changes, diet, exercise, relaxation and not smoking are just a few of the things that ca be done to prevent heart disease. It’s important to note that some people have a genetic predisposition for heart disease and are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Yearly physicals and check-ups are crucial for ensuring your heart is working at optimum capacity. While the risk of heart disease increases with age and there’s nothing that can be done to counteract a genetic predisposition, there are plenty of steps that may be taken to lower overall heart disease risk.
You can lower the risk of developing heart disease by keeping your weight in a normal range, monitoring your cholesterol level and lowering it if it becomes too high, quitting smoking, ensuring that you get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week and lowering high blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Those with diabetes are at an increased risk of heart disease, making the need to keep diabetes under control essential. It’s also imperative to recognize the warning signs of a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest so that you have a faster response time during an emergency. The American Heart Association offers a guide to help citizens know the warning signs associated with heart failure.
Sedentary workers must recognize the dangers inherent for those who sit for long periods of time. Studies show that being sedentary for one hour or more can cause circulation issues, which in turn can lead to heart disease. Making certain to exercise daily and just getting up and moving after sitting for one hour can help keep the circulatory system moving properly. Some sedentary workers are opting for standing desks in order to keep their blood flowing, the heart pumping and reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks.
While heart disease affects both men and women, there is a stark difference regarding treatment and longevity based on genders. Studies show that one in three women die from heart disease and aren’t treated or diagnosed correctly during a crisis. Women are more likely than men to have a heart attack without chest pain, making a diagnosis difficult from some health care professionals. According to the Mayo Clinic, women of all ages should know the warning signs of heart disease.
Diet and exercise play vital roles in maintaining heart health. Choosing fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich foods is an important strategy in the fight against heart disease. Additionally, getting enough sleep and reducing stress are two areas that must be addressed. Far too often, Americans stay up late, live high-stress lifestyles and sacrifice sleep. This pattern can lead to a weight increase that only compounds the problem by making the heart work harder. Reducing stress, maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough sleep are three simple areas that can provide tremendous benefits.
As February is a time to celebrate love and giving our hearts to another, let’s love our hearts this month by making sure they are in the best shape possible. Check out the video player above for more tips and resources regarding heart heath.
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