February Is National Heart Month

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Are you treating your heart with the care it deserves? Learn about the simple steps you can take to improve your cardiovascular health now

Your heart is the hardest working muscle in your body. This year alone, it will beat over forty-two million times, circulating blood and oxygen to the furthest reaches of your body. Unfortunately, heart disease will also claim the lives of one in four people in the United States this year, representing the number one killer of both men and women worldwide. Heart disease is indiscriminate in its impact, targeting people of all ages, races, and genders. Sadly, many fatal cardiac episodes are the result of potentially preventable lifestyle conditions; as many as two-hundred thousand heart disease-related deaths annually can be avoided by simple lifestyle modifications targeted at those individuals who present the highest risk.

In order to understand what you can do to prevent heart disease, it’s first important to assess your level of risk. Individuals with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, those who have a family history of heart disease, smokers, and the physically inactive are among some of the most at-risk members of the population. If you’re among the segment of the population for whom these risk factors apply, it’s crucial to recognize what changes you can begin making to lower the immediate threat of heart disease. High blood pressure (hypertension) is the result of a variety of factors, both related to genetics and lifestyle. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, increasing physical activity and modifying diet are appropriate steps to take to regain control of your blood pressure. Likewise, elevated cholesterol levels can be combated through a combination of awareness of dietary factors, as well as treatment with statin class drugs.

Perhaps some of the easiest lifestyle factors to control involve what we put into our bodies and our corresponding level of activity. Check out this month’s feature on designing a diet for heart health for a complete breakdown of recommendations for optimizing your nutritional intake for heart health. Smoking is perhaps one of the most obvious and significantly preventable causes of heart disease and quitting will allow your body a chance to begin repairing and recuperating from the stress cigarette smoking places on all of the vital organs. Finally, a consistent exercise regime - even if it only includes steady but moderate activities - will keep your heart strong well into the golden years of your life.

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