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Heart health depends on you

How appropriate is it that February brings us both Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month?

Yes, this month is set aside each year for us to remember the importance of good heart health. How many of us actually put real stock into staying health-conscious when it comes to cardiovascular health?

We love our readers, so we hope you will.

Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in United States? Heart disease, and the conditions leading up to it, can happen at any age, and it’s a condition considered largely preventable with proper diet and exercise.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, more than 15 million people in the United States have coronary heart disease. About 316,000 of those are right here in Alabama.

With many Americans experiencing at least one of the top risk factors for heart disease – smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure – many of us are probably aware we’re at risk, but we put those blinders on. We think, “Well, that’s not going to happen to me,” or “My health really isn’t that bad.”

Are you being honest with yourself? Is it time to start taking your heart health more seriously? As with most things in life, there is no time like there present.

The good news is, even if you have been neglecting your heart, national organizations recommend several steps you can take to show your heart some love. We hope you’ll take these tips, from the NHLBI, into consideration.

  • Be mindful about your health and regularly monitor your blood pressure or blood sugar if needed. Keep an eye on your weight to make sure it stays within or moves toward a healthy range. Being aware of your health status is a key to making positive change.
  • Kick the habit: Extinguish that cigarette for good. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease.
  • Start eating healthier. Start small by pepping up your meals with a fresh herb or spice as a salt substitute. Get adventurous and prepare a simple, new, heart-healthy recipe, or go big by trying a different way of eating, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan, which is scientifically proven to lower blood pressure.
  • Embrace more movement. An active lifestyle promotes heart health.
  • Learn the signs of a heart attack or stroke. You could be having a heart attack if you have chest and upper body pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea or lightheadedness. You might be having a stroke if you have numbness in the face, arm or leg; confusion; trouble talking or seeing; dizziness; or a severe headache.
  • Inspire others to take care of their own hearts. Talk about your self-care routine with loved ones. Having social support and personal networks can make it easier to get regular physical activity, eat nutritious foods, reach a healthy weight and quit smoking.

This February, we want all of our readers across Franklin County to take a moment and consider their heart health. It’s the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give yourself as well as the ones you love.