Steps to Heart Health During American Heart Month

As American Heart Month, February is a great time to begin taking care of your heart health if you haven’t already. Heart disease is a major problem for Americans. Each year about 700,000 people in the United States have a heart attack. Heart disease is also the leading cause of death for both men and women—about one out of every 4 deaths--but it can be prevented and controlled. Heart disease, which refers to several heart conditions including the most common coronary heart disease are part of a larger group of cardiovascular diseases that also include stroke. Essentially, any conditions associated with your heart or blood vessels. Cardiovascular diseases are not only dangerous, they are also costly. Health care services, medications and lost productivity due to those who cannot work add up to about $312.6 billion each year. These conditions also are leading causes of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities.

Steps to Heart Health

Thinking about heart health doesn’t have to be daunting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that small steps toward a healthier lifestyle can have a big effect.
  • Take one step at a time.Even small steps move you toward your overall goal.
  • Get help.Working with friends or family will help make the challenges easier, plus you’ll be more accountable with eyes watching!
  • Be encouraged by small wins.Did you achieve one heart-healthy thing today? If so, celebrate that as a win and prepare to start fresh the next day.
  • Reward yourself. Stress is not only frustrating; it’s also counterproductive to healthy hearts. Take time to do something you enjoy.

Plan for Prevention

As with many conditions, there are controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for heart disease. Learn about your body and history to find out if you have a genetic predisposition, but then focus on the things you can change.

  • Eat healthy foods.Everyone can use this advice. Select nutritious foods that you also like and will eat. Review the USDA’s recommendations for older adults to make sure your aging body is getting all the right nutrients.
  • Exercise regularly.Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It also helps prevent falls by improving your strength and balance.
  • Keep an eye on blood pressure and cholesterol.You might not realize if your blood pressure or cholesterol are high. Check with your doctor to find out how often you should check them.
  • Take your medicine.If you already take medication for blood pressure or cholesterol, or if you have another condition like diabetes, make sure you are taking your medicine according to your doctor’s prescriptions, even if you feel you don’t need it anymore.
  • Limit alcohol and don’t smoke.Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and 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.