Life with a healthy heart is so much sweeter


Last updated 2/5/2020 at 4:42pm | View PDF

Hearts are everywhere this month — but not all of them are for Valentine’s Day.

For the past 56 years, February has been American Heart Month. President Lydon B. Johnson issued the first proclamation in February 1964, nine years after he suffered a heart attack.

Science has advanced medicine in exciting new ways since that time, but heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of Americans, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Seventy-two percent of Americans don’t consider themselves at risk for heart disease, and 83 percent believe heart attacks can be prevented but aren’t motivated to do anything.

American Heart Month is designed to remind us all how important it is to pay attention to heart health. While age, gender and family history are potential risk factors beyond one’s control when it comes to heart disease, the good news is many risks can be lowered by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Follow these suggestions from the American Heart Association, Mayo Clinic, the Heart Foundation and the CDC to take better care of your heart.

• Be smoke free.

Smoking doubles the risk of a heart attack and triples the risk of stroke.

• Manage cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Total cholesterol levels of less than 200 milligrams per deciliter are considered desirable for adults. A reading between 200 and 239 mg/dL is considered borderline high and a reading of 240 mg/dL and above is considered high.

• Manage blood pressure.

Experiencing high blood pressure over a long period of time is one of the main risk factors for heart disease. A reading under 120/80 is considered optimal. Readings up to 129/80 are considered elevated. Readings of 130-139/80-89 indicate Stage 1 hypertension and those of 140/90 or higher mark Stage 2 hypertension.

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• Manage diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol, raising the risk for heart disease and stroke.

• Be physically active.

A good starting goal is 150 minutes a week, with the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommended 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Find forms of exercise that are enjoyable and build more opportunities to be active into your daily routine.

• Enjoy a heart-healthy diet.

Control portion size, eat more fruits and vegetables, select whole grains, limit unhealthy fats, choose low-fat protein sources, reduce sodium intake, create daily menus and allow an occasional treat to achieve a healthier diet.

• Look after your mental health.

Those who have depression, are socially isolated or do not have good social supports can have a greater risk of heart disease.

This month — and every month — show a little love to your heart by doing all you can to remain healthy.


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