A man stretching his legs in a parking lot

 

Written by Jenny Goldade

 

With February being American Heart Month, there’s no better Valentine’s Day gift to give yourself than a healthy heart.

 

Every year, heart disease takes the lives of one in four people, making it the leading cause of death in the United States. It’s important to understand the causes of heart disease, so you can try to prevent it through healthy lifestyle choices.

 

What is Heart Disease?

According to Mayo Clinic, heart disease can be a range of conditions that affect your heart, such as blood vessel diseases or heart defects that people are born with. Cardiovascular disease is when blood vessels are narrowed or blocked, known as atherosclerosis, which can result in chest pain, a heart attack, or stroke.

 

Atherosclerosis can be caused by smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or blood vessel inflammation. Cardiovascular disease symptoms can include chest pain; shortness of breath; pain, numbness, weakness, or coldness in legs or arms if those areas have narrowed blood vessels; and pain in your neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen, or back.

 

You can read more about other types of heart disease and their symptoms in this Mayo Clinic article.

 

Reasons you may be more at risk of getting heart disease include:

  • Age (Although heart disease can affect people of all ages, men are more at risk after age 45 and women after age 55 or menopause.)
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Not eating a healthy diet
  • Not getting enough regular physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Poor hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Stress

Heart Disease Prevention

You can help prevent heart disease by committing to a healthy lifestyle. One way is by having a healthy diet and reducing the amount of sodium you eat by choosing foods with low or no sodium and using spices or herbs instead of salt to flavor foods. You should control your portion sizes and eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and sources of protein such as fish or eggs.

 

Check out this American Heart Association article for more information on creating a heart-healthy diet and what foods to limit or avoid.

 

Staying active is another key factor to having a healthy lifestyle. Find time every day for fitness, whether it’s going for a walk or joining an exercise class. Exercise is a great way to cope with stress. Some other ways you can deal with stress are by talking to a loved one, volunteering your time, and getting enough rest.

 

If you smoke, creating a quit smoking plan to stop smoking can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease. When creating your plan, consider ways to keep busy and avoid temptations and remember to stay positive and ask for help from loved ones if you need it.

 

You should keep informed about heart disease and its prevention by talking to your doctor and loved ones about the importance of heart health.

 

Show Your Support

Wearing red is a simple way to show your support for American Heart Month, but you can make a difference year-round by spreading the message about heart disease prevention. By spreading the word, people can become more educated about how to keep their hearts healthy.

 

Some ways you can inform others include creating an event to educate community members or sharing information on social media or in a newsletter.

 

Check out Million Hearts on social media for more heart health tips and discussions about preventing heart disease!