Celebrate American Heart Month in February by Eating Healthier & Exercising More

How’s your heart these days? I hope it’s healthy. After all, your heart is the most vital organ in your body.

Why am I asking about your heart? No, it’s not because Valentine’s Day is coming up. It’s because February is American Heart Month.

Groups including the American Heart Association (AHA) bring awareness to heart health every February. They encourage people help spread the word about this subject in their homes and in their communities.

People are urged to recognize the nationwide problem of heart and blood vessel diseases. As the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S., heart disease is obviously a major problem.

What Is Heart Disease?

When people talk about heart disease, they are usually referring to coronary heart disease. It’s also called coronary artery disease.

When someone has this disease, the coronary arteries that carry blood to the heart are narrow. Or they are blocked by plaque.

Plaque in the arteries is built up from too much fat and cholesterol in the blood. As well as by high blood pressure, smoking and too much sugar in the blood.

When an artery is blocked by plaque, it can cause chest pain. It can also result in a heart attack.

Serious Risk Factors & Warning Signs

Not surprisingly, people who are most at risk for heart disease are those who smoke. And those with high cholesterol or blood pressure.

But another major factor is one’s diet. Those who are overweight or obese, don’t get enough physical activity and don’t eat a healthy diet are at an even higher risk.

Age and family history can also be connected to heart disease. Especially in women over age 55 and men over age 45. Plus those whose father or brother had heart disease before age 55. And those whose mother or sister had heart disease before age 65.

Some of the warning signs include: feeling faint, difficult breathing, nausea or vomiting, pain or an uncomfortable pressure in the chest, unusual pains in one’s back, shoulders or neck, sweating and also an irregular heartbeat.

Making Important Changes

Fortunately, there are ways to we can reduce our risk of heart disease. Changes that we can make to help control and prevent factors of heart disease include:

  • Using spices to season food rather than salt. Salt raises how much sodium is in the bloodstream and lowers the ability of the kidneys to remove water. The outcome is high blood pressure.
  • Watching one’s weight. Too much weight can make the heart work harder to send blood to the body’s cells.
  • Quitting smoking and staying away from secondhand smoke. Tobacco can bring about cardiac conditions such as heart disease and heart attack.
  • Controlling one’s cholesterol and blood pressure. Too much cholesterol in the blood builds up in the walls of the arteries, causing heart disease. Hypertension makes the coronary arteries serving the heart to become narrowed.
  • Drinking alcohol only in moderation. Too much alcohol can worsen health conditions that contribute to heart disease, including blood pressure, high cholesterol and arrhythmias.
  • Getting active and eating healthy. Running around all day but eating unhealthy foods won’t work. Nor will eating the right foods while sitting in an easy chair all day. Thirty minutes a day of flexibility, strength and aerobic exercise, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables will lower the chances significantly.
  • Minimizing stress in your life. This is easier said than done, but there are healthy outlets for relieving stress, which can make blood pressure to rise.

It’s Not Too Late

Unfortunately, far too many seniors believe heart issues are inevitable as they age.

And while it’s true that 84 percent of people 65 and older die from heart disease, it doesn’t have to be that way for you.

A healthy heart begins with daily habits that will help your long-term heart health. Like eating fruits and veggies every meal, or coming up with a daily exercise routine…

Regardless of when or where you begin, whether it’s eating right, managing your stress, watching the scale, or simply quitting smoking… it’s never too late to do something about your chances.

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