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Health Department Notes - February Is American heart month

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease is responsible for one out of every four deaths in the country. For some groups, such as African Americans, the burden is even greater. As a nation, we can - and must - change these numbers.

The good news is that heart disease can be prevented, and February American Heart Month is a great time to refresh your memory on the small but important actions you can take. Take steps today to lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack.

To help prevent heart disease, you can:

• Eat healthy. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid CVD and its complications. Limiting sodium in your diet can lower your blood pressure. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Adults should have at least five servings each day. Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans-fat, cholesterol and high in fiber.

• Get active. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity activity for at least 150 minutes per week. Remember to incorporate exercise into your day in different ways: take the stairs instead of the elevator, or rake the yard instead of using the leaf blower. Exercising with friends and family can be a great way to stay healthy and have fun.

• Watch your 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 a number called body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person’s body fat.

• Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for CVD. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible.

• Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. Get your cholesterol checked. Your health care team should test your cholesterol levels at least once every five years. Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis. You can check your blood pressure at home, at a pharmacy, or at a doctor’s office.

• If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day, and women to no more than one.

• Take steps to prevent Type 2 diabetes. Making a few lifestyle changes can dramatically lower the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.

• Manage stress. Managing stress can help prevent serious health problems like heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure. Deep breathing and meditation are good ways to relax and manage stress.

Together, we all can prevent and manage heart disease, one step at a time.

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