Honor American Heart Month With New, Heart-Healthy Habits

February 1964 was notable for many things. The 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed the poll tax in federal elections, was officially certified. The Beatles arrived in America for the first time and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Muhammad Ali (who was still known at the time as Cassius Clay) defeated Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. And for the first time ever, the month of February was designated as “American Heart Month.”

Fifty-three years later, each of these moments has had an impact on our society to varying degrees. In terms of life and death issues, President Lyndon Johnson’s American Heart Month declaration has had an important impact on American society — but there is more work to do.

At that time, more than half the deaths in the U.S. were caused by cardiovascular disease. Since then, while there have been major increases in both awareness of the reasons for heart disease and the availability of much healthier dining and cooking options, cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women, across all demographics. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, heart disease affects nearly 85.6 million Americans, and includes heart attacks, arrhythmia, heart valve problems and the after-effects of stroke.

While American Heart Month is a federally designated month in the United States, it’s important to realize that cardiovascular disease knows no borders. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the leading global cause of death with more than 17.3 million deaths each year. That number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030. The American Heart Association notes that cardiovascular disease, listed as the underlying cause of death, accounts for nearly 801,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, or roughly 1 of every 3 deaths in the United States. About 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day, an average of one death every 40 seconds. And about 92 million American adults are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of stroke.

It’s never too late to start living a healthy lifestyle. There are several things individuals can do to live a healthier lifestyle and reduce the possibility of 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.

Adding exercise to your daily routine is also a great way to reduce heart health problems. It doesn’t need to be particularly strenuous; simply walking 15 to 30 minutes three times each week will definitely help your heart. Along with exercise, you should increase healthy eating habits. Cook heart-healthy meals at home at least three times each week, and make your favorite recipes lower in sodium. If you are a smoker, take steps to quit, which will also significantly reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.

February is also known for Valentine’s Day. Make sure you have a healthy heart, so that you can continue to love the world around you.