Every day, week and month of the year has some sort of connection to a holiday or theme. This week, for example, we celebrate Valentine’s Day on Sunday and Presidents Day on Monday. While one of these holidays celebrates American history, the other celebrates all things romantic. But there is another observance going on — one that is more important to your health.
February is American Heart Month, and believe it or not, this 29-day-long theme is connected to both of the previously mentioned holidays. After all, without a healthy heart, how can one truly enjoy romance? And without a healthy heart, how can one focus on commemorating the birthdays of two amazing former presidents (George Washington and Abraham Lincoln)?
OK, that last part may be a bit of a stretch. But the perfect gift for your loved one this Valentine’s Day is the gift of a healthy heart. Now is the perfect time to commit to a healthy lifestyle, and make small changes that can lead to a lifetime of heart health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, heart disease — also known as cardiovascular disease — is the leading cause of death for both men and women, across all demographics. Cardiovascular disease affects nearly 85.6 million Americans, and includes heart attack, arrhythmia, heart valve problems and the after-effects of stroke. The American Heart Association published the following sobering statistics in December: that cardiovascular diseases claimed 801,000 lives in the U.S.; that stroke killed nearly 129,000 Americans; and that 31 percent of all deaths in the world were related to cardiovascular disease.
According to the CDC, there are several things individuals can do to live a healthier lifestyle and reduce the possibility of these heart issues. One thing adults should do is schedule regular visits with their personal physician to talk about heart health. It’s important to schedule regular check-ups even if you don’t think you are sick. Set up a program with your physician, and set goals for improving your heart health.
While it’s a cliché resolution when the new year rolls around, adding exercise to your daily routine is also a great way to reduce heart health problems. If you’re not big into cardio at the gym, that’s OK. Walking 15 to 30 minutes three times each week will definitely help.
Along with exercise, you should increase healthy eating. Cook heart-healthy meals at home at least three times each week, and make your favorite recipe lower in sodium. Not indulging in all that Valentine’s Day candy might help, too. And if you are a smoker, take steps to quit, which will also reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.
There are also several wonderful smart phone apps out there that allow you to easily track your daily steps, miles and your daily calorie and meal consumption.
Another way to celebrate American Heart Month is to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). On Saturday, Feb. 13 from 9 a.m. to noon, you can receive free hands-only CPR training in a 30-minute session at 20 fire stations throughout Palm Beach County. The classes will be taught by students from the Palm Beach County School District Medical Magnet Program, along with the Palm Beach State College paramedic students. All you have to do is show up wearing comfortable clothes and a willingness to learn. Locations include Station 28 at 1040 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. in Royal Palm Beach. A similar class will be held at the Mall at Wellington Green from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., also on Saturday, Feb. 13.
All of these are ideal ways to help reduce the possibility of cardiovascular disease. And the healthier your heart, the more holidays you can spend with loved ones. To learn more about heart disease prevention, visit the American Heart Association web site at www.heart.org.