February is Heart Month

February is Heart Month

You are never too young or too old to focus on taking care of your heart.

Your heart pumps blood through your body delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells. That’s why a healthy heart is central to overall good health. In honor of American Heart Month, here are seven things you can do to take good care of your heart:

Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Even being slightly overweight (10-20 pounds for a person of average height) increases your risk. The good news is that the same steps that will help you lose weight are also good for your heart: eating well and exercise.

Follow a heart-healthy diet. Food choices greatly impact your chance of developing heart disease. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Avoid processed foods. Limit sugar intake. For more guidance, check out this list of heart-healthy foods.

Read food labels. When shopping, take time to read the labels and look for foods that are low in sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat. On food labels, ingredients are listed from high to low. The higher it is on the list, the more that ingredient is in the food. If sugar is listed first, it means the food has mostly sugar.

Schedule time for exercise. A lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Not only does exercise make your heart stronger and work more efficiently, it helps burn calories. Healthy adults should be getting at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.

Stop smoking. Cigarette smokers are two to three times more likely to die from coronary heart disease than nonsmokers. Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance and “good” cholesterol, and increases the tendency for blood to clot.

Take prescribed medication. It is important that you take any medication your doctor has

Learn the signs of a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle itself is severely reduced or stopped. If the blood supply is cut off drastically or for a long time, muscle cells suffer irreversible injury and die. Prompt treatment is critical, and that’s why it’s so important to know the signs of a heart attack.

Major symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, arm or shoulder.
  • Women may also feel nauseous, light-headed or unusually tired.

If you notice the symptoms of a heart attack in yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately. Fast treatment can make a life-saving difference.