Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. February is designated as National Heart Month to help raise awareness and focus on education for a healthy heart.
Some of you may be wondering, what is heart disease?
Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is a term used for many conditions that affect your heart, including abnormal heart rhythms, blood vessel diseases, heart failure and, most commonly, coronary artery disease.
Coronary artery disease is the buildup of cholesterol, or plaque, in the blood vessels which decreases blood flow to the heart and can cause heart attacks and strokes.
There are several risk factors that increase your chances of heart disease, and most Americans have at least one. These risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, being overweight, poor diets and inactive lifestyles.
Luckily, 80 percent of heart disease may be preventable with certain lifestyle changes. This February, make a commitment with your friends and family to help improve your heart health by following some of the tips below.
Set a goal with your friends and family to be more physically active. Go dancing, create a walking group or find exercises that you love and do them regularly. The American Heart Association recommends at least 2½ hours of physical activity per week.
Maintain a healthy weight
Get together with someone who can help motivate and keep you on track for weight goals.
Eat heart healthy
Research shows that many Americans have been able to lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol numbers by following the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension).
Smoking puts you at a higher risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease! Try Missouri's Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-Quit-Now to register for a professional coach who will work with you to help develop a plan to quit smoking.
Monitor your numbers
Things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes increase your risk of developing heart disease. See your primary physician regularly to monitor your blood pressure, check cholesterol levels and screen for diabetes. You can visit www.heart.org for more information on each of these topics.
Stress less and sleep more
High levels of stress can lead to increased weight gain and unhealthy habits that may result in a greater risk for heart disease. Find healthy ways to cope with stress like meditation, journaling or deep breathing.
Also, ensuring you get enough sleep each night helps to restore the body, decrease stress and increase overall happiness.
Working towards heart health is a lifelong journey and at times may be difficult but by combining all these tips together, you may help to decrease your risk for heart disease.
This February, make it a goal to commit to taking care of your body and reducing your risk for health conditions, including heart disease.
Jennifer Wolken, nursing supervisor, has been with the Cole County Health Department for three years. She graduated nursing school from Lincoln University in 2010 with her RN, BSN and worked at a local hospital until taking this position.