Songs about the heart dominate popular music, and stories of romance reign in the month of February. Not as popular are songs and stories about healthy hearts, yet a healthy heart is just as important to healthy relationships.
Odds are, you know someone affected by heart disease and stroke, because approximately 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day. That’s an average of one death every 40 seconds. However, detection and prevention of heart disease and stroke save and prolong lives, which is the point of February being “American Heart Month.”
American Heart Month began in 1964 thanks to President Lyndon Johnson. At that time, cardiovascular disease was rampant, the cause of more than half the deaths in the United States. Unfortunately, despite both Johnson’s declaration and major increases in awareness campaigns and cooking options, cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women, across all demographics. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, heart disease affects more than 85 million Americans, and includes heart attack, arrhythmia, heart valve problems and the after-effects of stroke.
Heart disease — the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States — is not something that happens overnight. It takes decades to develop, which gives us the opportunity to turn things around if we are headed in the wrong direction. This means it is important to keep it front and center in our lives. That’s why making American Heart Month a priority is important. This includes making “National Wear Red Day” on Friday, Feb. 2 as notable as possible. Individuals are encouraged to wear red in order to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease, which in turn is geared toward saving lives.
Living healthy is important. The biggest part of living healthy comes down to simply making healthy choices. While you can’t change things like age and family history, regardless of how much money you have, the good news is even modest changes to your diet and lifestyle can improve your heart health and lower your risk by as much as 80 percent.
Here’s three ways to live that healthier lifestyle:
(1) When it comes to food, enlist some support. Let family members know you are trying to make healthy choices. If you see a loved one eating poorly, try a gentle, loving nudge. Maybe offer to do the grocery shopping, or do it as a team to encourage one another. Are there teens in the family who might be going off to college with a mini-fridge to stock? Taking them healthy food shopping could be an eye-opening experience.
(2) See your doctor. For some, this can be the hardest step of all. Men, especially, are known to avoid a trip to the doctor. But what you don’t know about your heart health could possibly kill you.
(3) Exercise can be very difficult to fit into our schedules. But it’s worth it. Exercise not only positively affects heart health, it also boosts mood and keeps your body stronger as you get older. According to the CDC, adults should aim for getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity — such as a brisk walk — each week. That is just 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Try a family fitness challenge and compete with each other to see who can get the best results. Perhaps if you can put together a good workout playlist, both you and your heart will be happy.
To learn more, visit the American Heart Association at www.heart.org.