Throughout the month of February it is American Heart Month. The goal for this month is to bring awareness to heart disease. Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure, is responsible for almost one in four deaths. It is the number one cause of death in the country for men and women. Normal aging causes blood vessels and the heart to stiffen. This month it is important to bring awareness to this subject and to educate how to reduce the risks.

Heart disease is often called the "silent killer" because of the major risk of high blood pressure. Often people do not recognize the symptoms to signal a problem with high blood pressure. It is a medical condition that happens when the pressure of blood in the arteries and other blood vessels is too high. Lowering blood pressure by lifestyle changes or medication can reduce the risk for heart disease and heart attack.

Risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Obesity
  • Decrease in physical activity
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Age (the older you get, the higher the risk)
  • Tobacco use
  • High blood pressure
  • Ethnicity
  • Family history
  • Unhealthy diet

Making changes in your lifestyle can lower your chance of having heart disease. A heart-healthy lifestyle will not guarantee to keep heart disease away, but it will improve your health in many ways. Here are some changes and tips to make :

  • IMPROVE CHOLESTEROL : Your daily goal for cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dl. You should speak with your doctor to determine how much cholesterol you can have. Eat less saturated and trans fats found in food. Some foods that can help lower cholesterol are oats, nuts, whole grains, and beans.
  • EAT MORE FIBER! : Eating fiber can lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It will also help you to feel more full and help you manage your weight easier.
  • STOP BAD HABITS : Smoking is associated with breathing difficulty and lung cancer. It is also more likely to cause a heart attack. It is more difficult to recover from a heart attack than to quit smoking. Almost one out of five deaths from heart disease is related to smoking. Smoking reduces how much oxygen your heart gets. It also harms the inside of your blood vessels.
  • GET ACTIVE: Research has shown that at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Even if you are not active, begin somewhere. A few minutes each day can offer health benefits.
  • WATCH YOUR WEIGHT : Good nutrition and watching your calories are a good way to maintain a healthy weight. It is one of the most powerful defenses against heart disease.
  • LIMIT STRESS : There has been shown through research a connection between heart disease and stress. Often people under stress make poor choices in diet, as well as turn to smoking or increase smoking.

It is always important to speak with a doctor concerning your risks for heart disease. Take time this month to educate yourself on heart disease and the changes you can make in your life to reduce the risks.

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