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Give your heart some love during American Heart Month

2/7/2014, 5:24 a.m.
A healthy heart is a prized possession and during February, which is celebrated as American Heart Month, the Centers for ...

A healthy heart is a prized possession and during February, which is celebrated as American Heart Month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that adults can do their heart good with a few simple steps.

The national centers, which is based in DeKalb County, says heart disease is preventable and controllable.

This month it is offering weekly tips to fight heart disease, the leading cause of death for both men and women.

Every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack and one out of every four deaths, about 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States annually.

The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type is coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease. It occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Coronary heart disease can cause heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, costs the country $312.6 billion each year for health care services, medications, and lost productivity. These conditions also are leading causes of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities.

The CDC’s tip-a-day for heart health includes:

  • Don’t become overwhelmed. Every step brings you closer to a healthier heart.
  • Don’t go it alone. The journey is more fun when you have company. Ask friends and family to join you.
  • Don’t get discouraged. You may not be able to take all of the steps at one time. Get a good night’s sleep and do what you can tomorrow.
  • Reward yourself. Find fun things to do to decrease your stress. Round up some colleagues for a lunchtime walk, join a singing group, or have a healthy dinner with your family or friends.

Plan for prevention

  • Some health conditions and lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for developing heart disease. You can help prevent heart disease by making healthy choices and managing any medical conditions you may have.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables – adults should have at least five servings each day. Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet also can lower your blood pressure. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/index.html and ChooseMyPlate.gov.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors calculate your body mass index, or BMI. With your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/index.html.
  • Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis. You can check your blood pressure at home, at a pharmacy, or at a doctor’s office. Find more information at www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure.
  • Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit. For more information about tobacco use and quitting, visit www.cdc.gov/tobacco and Smokefree.gov.
  • Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day, and women to no more than one. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm.
  • Have your cholesterol checked. Your health care provider should test your cholesterol levels at least once every five years. Talk with your doctor about this simple blood test. Find out more at www.cdc.gov/cholesterol.
  • Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and talk with your doctor about treatment options. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/diabetes.
  • Take your medicine. If you’re taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something.

For more ideas about simple steps to take every day for better heart health, visit www.cdc.gov/salt/healthy_heart_tips.htm.

Million Hearts is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the by 2017. For more information, visit http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/index.html.