For many people, Valentine’s Day is the time to show just how much they care for loved ones in their lives. Some use chocolate and flowers, while others use jewelry or other meaningful gifts to show this. However, the best gift you could give to your loved ones is a healthy heart. February is also known as American Heart Month or Heart Awareness Month.
Men and women are encouraged to spread awareness about heart health and how this can be achieved during the month of February. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Overall, 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S. is due to heart disease, and nearly half of Americans have at least one risk factor. This could include, high blood pressure, obesity, unhealthy diet or physical inactivity. These risks only increase with age too.
All Americans are affected by this disease, but African American males, particularly in the southeast region of the country, are highly affected. In addition, 40 percent of African-Americans have high blood pressure. This is the leading cause of heart disease as well as strokes.
President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the first American Heart Month back in 1964, and February has been devoted to cardiovascular health ever since. While death due to heart disease has decreased significantly since the 1960s, it is still the leading cause of death with more than 17 million each year. This number is expected to rise in the next ten years even with all the attempts to bring awareness to every American.
This is why it is important to understand the little changes people can make to their everyday lives for a strong and healthy heart. The American Heart Association and Million Hearts® are just two organizations trying to provide awareness for heart health and the changes to daily life that can be made to prevent high risks.
Scheduling a doctor visit to talk about heart health is one of the main preventive measures. Knowing where you are now and what you can do to improve or maintain your heart health with the help of a doctor is a great way to stay ahead of the disease. Regular doctor visits can detect any warning signs of possible problems before they getting out of hand.
Adding exercise to your daily routine is another way to prevent heart disease. It is important to start gradually if you don’t currently exercise. However, the goal is 3-times a week if possible. All you need is 30 minutes to make a difference in your heart health.
Along with exercise, healthy eating is another important aspect of maintaining a healthy. Home cooked meals with low sodium is a great way to increase healthy eating. Ordering takeout, even from the healthiest of restaurants, makes eating healthy a challenge. By making your own meals, you can control how much sodium and other unhealthy ingredients are going into your body.
Smoking increases your risk for heart disease too. If you are a smoker, you should consider quitting to cut your risk. Taking prescribed medicine is also important. Even if you don’t like taking pills, it is something to consider to cut your risk and improve your health.
This year’s goal for awareness is to get young adults to starting talking sooner rather than later. Having conversations now with loved ones could be the biggest step to fighting heart disease. Find time to talk because a 5-minute conversation might just be enough to get someone to start thinking about his/her heart health. It may seem awkward, but sometimes the most important conversations are.
If you want more information on American Heart Month, the many social media events or information on heart health, visit Million Hearts. Show your loved ones just how much you care with the gift of heart health this Valentine’s Day.