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February is Heart Month – Wear Red for Heart Health

Wear red for Heart Health Month.

Good chance you know someone with cardiovascular disease (CVD). That’s a big term for heart attacks, strokes and related conditions. This February the American Heart Association (AHA) asks us to celebrate Heart Month by learning more about heart disease and taking steps to help our hearts beat longer and stronger.

To put this matter in perspective, let’s remember that when President Lyndon B. Joshnson proclaimed the first American Heart Month in 1964, more than half the deaths in the U.S. were caused by cardiovascular disease.

Guess what? This disease is still the leading global cause of death with more than 17.3 million deaths each year. That number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030.

Quick stats from the AHA

According to recent figures, someone in the U.S. dies of CVD about every 40 seconds. That is about 2,200 deaths of CVD each day.

Further, someone in the US has a stroke about every 40 seconds. This is about 795,000 new or recurrent strokes each year. On average, someone died of a stroke every 4 minutes.

What are some of the risk factors?

* Hypertension – 85.7 million, or 34.0% of US adults are estimated to have hypertension.

* High cholesterol – 28.5 million, or 11.9% of US adults are estimated to have total serum cholesterol levels ≥240 mg/dL, based on 2011-2014 data.

* Diabetes – 23.4 million, or 9.1% of US adults are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes, based on 2011-2014 data.

* Smoking – 1 in 6 males and 1 in 7 females in the United States are current smokers, based on 2015 data.

* Do not exercise – On average, 1 in 3 adults, or 30.4%  do not engage in leisure time physical activity.

What can you do to inspire heart health?

The AHA suggests Americans “Go Red” all month. That is wear red so others will ask, “Why the red shirt” and you can tell them it is Heart Month.  The idea is encourage men and women to make the time to Know Your Numbers.

That is, head to your care provider to get tested and learn about five numbers: Total Cholesterol, HDL (good) Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI). Knowing these numbers can help individuals and their providers determine if they are at risk for developing CVD.

How to Prevent Heart Disease

A smart heart, according to the AHA, likes healthy food and lots of exercise! For many Americans that requires a  serious lifestyle change. Yes, it’s easier said than done. But what are the alternatives? suggests men and women consider taking these relatively simple steps to control your risk for heart disease.

 Life’s Simple 7:

  1. Get active – Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day (like brisk walking), five times per week.
  2. Control cholesterol – Talk to your doctor, eat healthier
  3. Eat better

    Veggies are great for heart health!

Track what you eat with a food diary

Eat vegetables and fruits

Eat unrefined fiber-rich whole-grain foods

Eat fish twice a week

Cut back on added sugars and saturated fats

  1. Manage blood pressure

Eat a heart-healthy diet, which includes reducing sodium

Get regular physical activity and maintain a healthy weight

Manage stress, limit alcohol and avoid tobacco smoke.

  1. Lose weight

If you have too much fat — particularly around the middle – losing as few as five or ten pounds can produce a dramatic blood pressure reduction.

  1. Reduce blood sugar

Reduce eating sugars in soda, candy and sugary desserts

Exercise ! Moderate physical activity helps your body respond to insulin

Take medications or insulin if it is prescribed for you

  1. Stop smoking

Do whatever it takes to stop! Visit the American Heart Association’s Quit Smoking website for tools and resources.

To learn more about “Life’s Simple 7” take action with MyLifeCheck from the American Heart Association.