While many American’s view the heart as the symbol of love in February, the true celebration of American Heart Month is a call to all American’s to take charge of your heart health.
Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, is the leading cause of death in our country. In fact, 1 in every 4 deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease!
Heart disease, like other chronic disease, is often preventable. Taking preventative measures that support a healthy lifestyle can greatly reduce your risk for developing heart disease.
The good news is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is making it easier than ever before to take care of your heart. Thanks to the new healthcare law, most health insurance plans now cover a set of preventive services, such as blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring, at no out-of-pocket costs to the consumer.
Here are some more tips from the CDC on keeping your heart healthy:
- Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid CVD and its complications. Limiting sodium in your diet can lower your blood pressure. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables—adults should have at least five servings each day. Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for CVD. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, health care professionals often calculate a number called body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person’s body fat. If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI using the CDC’s BMI Calculator.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity activity for at least 150 minutes per week. Remember to incorporate exercise into your day in different ways: take the stairs instead of the elevator, or rake the yard instead of using the leaf blower. Exercising with friends and family can be a great way to stay healthy and have fun.
- Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for CVD. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Your health care team can suggest ways to help you quit.
- Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day, and women to no more than one.
- Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis. You can check your blood pressure at home, at a pharmacy, or at a doctor’s office.
- Get your cholesterol checked. Your health care team should test your cholesterol levels at least once every 5 years. Talk with your health care professional about this simple blood test.
- Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and talk with your health care team about treatment options.
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