Valentine’s Day in mid-February is recognized as a time to share your emotional heart, but Capital Health Plan reminds you that it’s also a good idea to think about your physical heart this February, which is National Heart Health Month.
According to the CDC, heart disease causes one in every four deaths in the United States, totaling more than 655,000 deaths each year. This makes heart disease the number one killer of American adults (although most recently COVID-19 has posed as great a risk).
Fortunately, scientific research has proven that we can prevent heart disease if we educate ourselves, regularly monitor our health, and follow a few heart-healthy tips.
The first step to a healthy heart is knowing what an unhealthy heart is.
Unhealthy hearts usually develop heart disease. The term “heart disease” refers to a variety of conditions that develop after birth and can affect your heart’s proper functioning. Different heart diseases include:
- Blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease. This condition is the most common type of heart disease in the United States, forming when plaque builds up on artery walls and slows blood flow to the heart.
- Heart valve disease occurs when any valve in the heart has damage or disease.
- Heart rhythm problems known as arrhythmias occur when the heart beats irregularly (too fast or too slow).
It is essential to recognize several medical conditions and lifestyle choices that can put people at a higher risk for heart disease. These include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Being overweight or obese
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
While many factors can increase the likelihood of developing heart disease, there are also many actions you can take to help prevent it.
- Eat smart – get your nutrients from fresh, colorful fruits, veggies, and whole grains instead of foods high in saturated and trans-fats. Incorporate more lean meats, fish, and nonfat or low-fat dairy products to replace meals loaded with red meat and fatty foods.
- Supplement your diet with omega-3, magnesium, and dietary fiber to promote heart health, along with an adequate amount of water for your body weight.
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. A recent study has confirmed that exercise sharply improves cardiovascular health.
- Take action to reduce and manage stress. Work, finances, and of course COVID-19 can take a major toll on your body and mind, you can counteract the effects by getting plenty of sleep, exercising, and practicing relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing exercises.
- If you have other conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, do your best to keep them under control.
- Visit your primary care physician regularly to go over any changes in your health and keep you on the right track toward excellent heart health.
Although heart disease is widespread in America, we can all take charge of our health by being proactive and mindful of our habits. Do your heart a favor this Valentine’s Day by scheduling a checkup with your doctor. Give your heart the care it needs and deserves!
For more information on Heart Health, please call the CHP Health Information Line at 850-383-3400 or visit the Healthwise ® Knowledgebase.