When you think of February, love, candy and hearts probably come to mind. But in order to raise awareness of the very real dangers of heart disease, February has appropriately been designated as Heart Health Month.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States that takes approximately 1 million lives annually. Fortunately, it is also the most preventable. Read below to learn how to identify if you are at risk and tips on how to reduce your risk.
Know the facts
Many factors play into your risk for heart disease. The first step is reviewing your risk factors with your physician. Some common risk factors are the following:
- Age: Heart disease can occur at any age, but 4 out of 5 people who have it are 65 or older.
- Smoking: smokers are twice as likely to suffer heart attacks than non-smokers.
- Cholesterol level: the higher the blood cholesterol level, the higher risk of coronary heart disease.
- Blood pressure:High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, and kidney damage
- Physical inactivity and obesity
- Stress or depression
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Family History or previous medical history
These risk individually can be unhealthy, but when combined with other factors, the risk is multiplied several times. The good news is that small changes in your lifestyle can reduce your risk significantly.
How to Reduce Your Risk
Adopt a heart healthy diet.
Eat nutrient dense foods from a variety of food groups. Your diet pattern should include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, legumes and nuts. Avoid red meats, sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages. Learn heart healthy and delicious recipes:
- Delish: 15 Heart-Healthy Recipes
- Woman’sDay: 55 Heart-Healthy Dinner Recipes
- American Heart Association: Healthy For Good Recipes
The American Heart Association recommends engaging in 150 minutes of moderator to vigorous activity per week. Being active does not have to be scary! You could bike with your children or go for a walk during your lunch break. Try to schedule opportunities to be more active in your routine and find forms of exercise you enjoy. Learn more ways to get moving:
- Fitt Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Fitness Events Calendar
- American Heart Association: Fitness Tips
- Active: Upcoming Walking Events in Pittsburgh
Everyone feels stress in different ways and also reacts to it differently. Often times, stress can effects us physically. Stressful situations could lead to a headache, stomach ulcers or contribute to high blood pressure. Since stress can negatively effect our risk factors, it is a proactive approach to manage stress levels as best as possible. Find outlets that work for you, such as meditating, spending time with family and friends or exercising.
For more information on heart health, use the following resources: