Traditionally the month for lovers, flowers, candy and all things heart related, February also reminds us to take care of our heart. American Heart Month is a time to raise awareness about heart disease and help people learn ways that they can protect their cardiovascular health. With cardiovascular disease (CVD) being the leading cause of death in America, it’s important to understand the risk factors, the warning signs and how to be proactive about your own heart health.
Many different risk factors affect your chances of developing heart disease. Understanding what aspects of your life play a role can help you make changes to improve your health. Of course, there are some risk factors that you cannot change, but you should still be aware of them. Advanced age, gender (men are more at risk), heredity, smoking, low physical activity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, obesity, stress, alcohol, and poor diet are all risk factors for poor cardiovascular health. Aging, gender and family history are things that we obviously cannot change; however, DNA testing can tell you if you’re genetically predisposed to certain heart-related health conditions or if you’re a carrier. This way, you can adapt your lifestyle or you can encourage the rest of your family to get tested as well.
Although DNA testing can provide some very valuable information, it’s still vital to know how to check for heart disease and heart failure by looking out for the warning signs and getting regular medical checkups. The American Heart Association encourages you to keep track of your day-to-day health and look out for the following warning signs: shortness of breath, general tiredness, sickness or lack of appetite, confusion, coughing or wheezing, and elevated heart rate. If you notice that you are experiencing these warning signs, contact your doctor right away. Effectively communicating with a medical professional about any warning signs you notice could bring light to a heart condition that needs immediate attention and could ultimately save your life.
Taking care of your heart has never been more important, and preventing heart disease doesn’t have to be hard. It mostly comes down to a proper diet and exercise. Committing to a regular exercise routine/program and a healthy diet will not only help make your heart healthy, but it will also make you feel better. It always helps if others join in for accountability purposes, so invite friends and family members to participate in heart healthy activities with you! Participating in a steps challenge at work, trying new healthy recipes with friends, joining an exercise class at your local gym and keeping a food journal are just a few of the things you can do to make heart health fun. Heart disease can affect everyone, but taking stock of your prior health risks, activities and diet can help you reduce your risk.