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February is Heart Health Month!

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February is a time for love- but how can you love without a healthy heart? It is heart health month and here are some things you should know about how to keep the old ticker ticking.

Anyone can have a heart attack at any age, but here are some risk factors for having a heart attack:

Smoking- More than 37 million adults smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels and can cause heart disease. Not only that, but also loss of limbs and lung cancer. Quitting is not easy but there are many ways to try. If you work closely with your doctor, you can become cigarette free!

Obesity- According to the CDC, more than 1 in 3 Americans—and nearly 1 in 6 children ages 2 to 19—is obese. Carrying extra weight not only increases risk of heart disease but leads to chronic inflammation in the body making an inflammatory condition worse, like autoimmune disease and arthritis. You can look into some healthy weight loss tips on my previous blog post here.

High Blood Pressure- This affects millions of Americans, and the majority have it uncontrolled. Normal BP is 120/80 and if it goes above 140/90, that’s a red flag. Chronic high blood pressure puts stress on the heart leading it to increase in size (congestive heart failure), which increases your risk of having a heart attack. In addition to the heart damage it causes, high BP can damage the vessels in the brain leading to stroke.

High Cholesterol- Smoking, diabetes, low physical activity and unhealthy eating can all contribute to high cholesterol. Cholesterol sticks to artery walls and narrows the space for blood to flow. When this happens in the heart arteries, the result is a heart attack.

Diabetes- 1 in 10 people have this “sweet” disease. I consider it a silent killer, since symptoms of late complications are not evident until it is further in the disease. Sugar damages the blood vessels of the heart, eyes, kidneys and brain.

Family History of Heart Disease- If you have anyone in the family that has had a heart attack, it is important to let your doctor know. Heart genetics get passed down and the younger your family member is with the problem, the more likely that you will also be at high risk.

Age- Even though young people are at risk for heart issues as well, the older you get the more likely it is for your heart to stop functioning, especially if combined with the other risk factors mentioned above.

It’s never too late to take control of your heart health! Eat foods low in trans-fat, saturated fat, less added sugars and low sodium. Make move not excuses; Stay Active- get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. And as always, get regular check-ups with your doctor and stay up to date on your health!