Steps to Take in American Heart Month
February 15, 2022
February, celebrated as American Heart Month, is a time to reflect on your heart health, consider your risk factors, and take steps toward preventing heart disease and stroke.
Review these seven signs for heart disease risk:
- Smoking. More than 35 million adults in America are smokers, and thousands of young people pick up the habit daily. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you’re a smoker, do your best to quit or cut down. The American Lung Association can help tobacco users figure out their reasons for quitting and then take the big step of quitting for good.
- Physical inactivity. Regular physical activity helps improve overall health and reduces the risk for heart disease, stroke, and premature death. In people with cardiovascular disease, physical activity can help manage their conditions; exercise training has been shown to have a positive effect on people with certain types of heart failure, and cardiac rehabilitation, which includes physical activity training, helps improve the health of people who have had a heart attack or bypass surgery.
- Nutrition. Make heart-healthy diet decisions. Eat whole foods low in trans-fat, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar. Nutritionists recommend that you fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Overweight/Obesity. People overweight or obese have a higher risk for heart disease. Carrying extra weight can put extra stress on the heart and blood vessels. To find out if your weight is in a healthy range, you can calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website.
- High Cholesterol. Your health care team should test your blood levels of cholesterol at least once every 4 to 6 years. If you have already been diagnosed with high cholesterol or have a family history of the condition, you may need to have your cholesterol checked more often. Talk with your health care provider about this simple blood test. If you have high cholesterol, medicines and lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk for heart disease.
- Diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels carefully. Talk with your health care team about treatment options. Your doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes to help keep your blood sugar under control. These actions will help reduce your risk for heart disease.
- High Blood Pressure. Millions of people in the United States have high blood pressure, and millions of them are as young as 40 or 50. If you are one of them, talk to your doctor about ways to control it. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so have it checked on a regular basis. Your health care team should measure your blood pressure at least once every 2 years if you have never had high blood pressure or other risk factors for heart disease.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, also called hypertension, your healthcare provider will measure your blood pressure more often to make sure you have the condition under control. Ask how often you should check your blood pressure which can be done at a doctor’s office, at a pharmacy, or at home.
Your health care team might recommend some changes in your lifestyle, such as lowering sodium in your diet; your doctor also may prescribe medicine to help lower your blood pressure.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have put off scheduling a routine annual physical examination. Healthcare professionals take precautions daily to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in their facilities. If you feel comfortable with your vaccination status and safety measures in place, make an appointment to find out if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol and to address other risk factors.
After you check in with your healthcare provider to rate your risk for heart disease and stroke, keep track of recommended prevention steps, prescribed medications, lab test results, and a calendar of completed and upcoming appointments at insureyouknow.org.