Traditionally the month for lovers and all things heart related, February also reminds us to take care of our heart. It is American Heart Month.
Below are two steps that can help you avoid heart disease, our nation’s leading killer:
Step 1: Learn your risk factors:
The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk for heart disease.
Major risk factors for heart disease include:
Heredity. If one or both of your parents have had heart disease, you are more likely to develop it, too.
Gender. More men than women have heart attacks, and they have them at an earlier age.
Age. Most people who die of heart disease are older than 65.
Smoking. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), people who smoke greatly increase their risk of heart disease.
High blood pressure. Also known as hypertension, this condition forces the heart to work harder than it normally has to work to pump blood.
High blood cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease.
Extra body weight. Being overweight or obese puts extra strain on the heart.
Diabetes. At least 68% of people 65 or older with diabetes die from some form of heart disease, and 16% die of stroke, according to the AHA.
Step 2: Reduce your risk:
Stop smoking. Quitting dramatically reduces the risk of a heart attack, and it reduces the risk of a second heart attack in people who already had one. Your doctor can help you quit.
Fight high blood pressure. To lower your blood pressure, reduce the amount of salt (sodium) in your diet, avoid alcohol, lose weight if you’re overweight and increase your physical activity level.
Control your cholesterol. Work with your doctor to get your cholesterol to a healthy level. Lifestyle changes and medicines can usually help.
Watch your weight. Balance the calories you eat with your level of physical activity.
Get moving. The AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week to promote heart fitness.
See your doctor before you begin an exercise program if you have a heart condition, have had a stroke or have another medical condition that might require special attention.
Patrick Moody is the director of marketing and public relations at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. For more information about local community health programs, visit HenryMayo.com. ν