February isn’t just about your sweetheart; dote on your own heart, too

Posted 1/31/19

February is historically one of the coldest months of the year in these parts, but paradoxically it’s also the month we celebrate one of our warmest holidays: Valentine’s Day.

Aided by the …

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February isn’t just about your sweetheart; dote on your own heart, too

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Posted

February is historically one of the coldest months of the year in these parts, but paradoxically it’s also the month we celebrate one of our warmest holidays: Valentine’s Day.

Aided by the familiar imagery of Cupid and arrows and hearts and an arsenal of tools such as chocolates, roses and greeting cards, Valentine’s Day arrives at just the right time to help prod us out of the winter doldrums.

Not coincidentally, February is also American Heart Month, a “time to show yourself the love,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that cardiovascular disease (CVD) — including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure — is the primary killer of men and women in the United States.

Many cardiovascular disease deaths could have been prevented through healthier lifestyles, healthier living spaces, and better management of physical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

So in the hearty spirit of February, here are some tips for better heart health, courtesy of the CDC:

• Work with your health care team. Get a checkup at least once each year, even if you feel healthy. A doctor, nurse or other health care professional can check your risk for CVD, such as high blood pressure and diabetes — conditions that can go unnoticed.

• Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so have health professional recommend having it checked regularly. You can check it yourself at home or at a pharmacy.

• Get your cholesterol checked. Your health care team should check your cholesterol levels at least once every five years.

• Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthy meal and snack options can help us avoid CVD and its complications. Limiting sodium in your diet can lower your blood pressure. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables ­­— adults should have at least five servings every day. Eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber.

• Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for CVD. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, health care professionals often calculate body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight web site.

• Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends adults engage in moderate-intensity activity for at least 150 minutes per week.

• Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases one’s risk for CVD. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible.

• Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and talk with your health care team about treatment options. Visit the CDC’s Diabetes Public Health Resource online for more information on how to protect your heart and live a longer, healthier life.

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