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February is American Heart Month

Written by Lauren Smaldone, ANP

I heart your heart.

Hello readers, and Happy Valentines Day! Did you know that February is also American Heart Month? Please indulge us and read more about how you can become part of the movement to eradicate heart disease.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is also known as cardiovascular disease. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease in the United States. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart's muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. There are 30.3 million adults in the United States living with heart disease. One person dies every 37 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease which totals about 647,000 annually.

Complications of heart disease include heart failure, heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease. According to the CDC, heart disease cost the United States about $219 billion from 2014 to 2015. This includes the cost of healthcare services, medicines, and lost productivity due to death.

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Am I at risk for heart disease?

The reality is that everyone, at some point in their life, will be at risk to develop heart disease. Risk factors for developing heart disease can be modifiable (able to be changed) or nonmodifiable (not able to be changed). Nonmodifiable risk factors include:

Age

Aging increases your risk of damaged and narrowed arteries and weakened or thickened heart muscle. Unfortunately, not much can be done about that.

Sex

Men are generally at greater risk of heart disease. However, women's risk increases after menopause. Therefore, everyone should be mindful of this risk.

Family history

A family history of heart disease increases your risk of coronary artery disease, especially if a parent developed it at an early age (before age 55 for a male relative, such as your brother or father, and before age 65 for a female relative, such as your mother or sister).

Reduce your risk

Fear not, readers! There are many actions you can take to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Maintain a healthy weight

Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors.

Be physically active

It has been shown that exercising in a group keeps you motivated. Challenge your friends and/or coworkers to a step contest. Take the stairs. Take a walk after dinner. Try a dance class. All activity adds up and can make a huge difference.

Make smart food choices

Fill your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables and reduce the amount of processed food you eat.

Eat healthy

De-stress

In addition to exercise, other ways to reduce stress can be yoga, tai-chi and listening to music. Find something that works for you

De-stress

Quit Smoking

If you smoke, this is the time to change your ways. If you are a smoker and are interested in quitting we have several options you can try at HeyDoctor.

The Bottom Line

Heart disease is a very common problem in the United States. To lessen your risk, there are many things that you can do.

Have an appointment with your primary care provider at least once a year for a well visit. This is the perfect time to discuss your family history and personal risk factors. You should get an updated blood pressure reading, and they may check your cholesterol and blood sugar numbers

Small changes can make a big difference! Even if you do not need to lose weight, increasing physical activity will benefit your heart by improving cholesterol levels, improving blood pressure and maintaining strong heart muscle. Make a goal in February to make a change that would improve your heart health.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HeyDoctor, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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