February, the month of love, chocolate, flowers and little hearts. Cut-out hearts are nice, but our own hearts are the once we should be concerned with.
February is American Heart Month, a time to learn about our risks for heart disease and stroke and to show ourselves some love.
According to Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, cardiovascular disease – which includes heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure – is the number one killer of women and men and is the leading cause of disability in the United States. This disease costs our country more than $300 billion every year, accounting for health care, medications and lost productivity.
The risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) that you can keep under control are: diet, physical activity, tobacco use, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol. Keeping these risk factors in check will help keep your heart healthy.
There are other factors that one must consider, however. If you have a close relative who has heart disease, you’re at a greater risk for CVD. Your zip code may also affect your risk. CDC says that in 2007-2009, heart disease death rates were the highest in the South and the lowest in the West.
Your race is also a factor. African Americans are more likely than any other racial group to have high blood pressure and to get it earlier in life. Nearly 44 percent of African American men and 48 percent of African American women have some sort of CVD.
Show your heart some love by eating a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet. Get help from a professional if necessary. Exercise regularly. Even short walk daily is enough to keep your ticker happy, integrate more vigorous exercise twice a week.
Monitor your blood pressure regularly. You can have it checked by a doctor, at home or at a pharmacy. Do not smoke. Smoking greatly increases your risk for CVD.
For more information on how to reduce your risk of CVD, visit heart.org.