February Is American Heart Month!

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February is American Heart Month! While some may have visions of chocolate hearts, boxes of candy, valentines and candy conversation hearts, American Heart Month’s focus could not be further from the sweet treats associated with February. The focus of American Heart Month in February is on having a healthy heart! According to the CDC, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US. Approximately 600,000 Americans die from heart disease every year. That is 1 in every 4 deaths.” The American Heart Association points out that 80% of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education.
Knowing the major risk factors for heart disease can help you pinpoint where changes in your lifestyle may be necessary. Almost half of Americans have one of the three major risk factors:
1) high blood pressure 2) high cholesterol 3) smoking.
Other risk factors include having diabetes, an unhealthy diet, not getting enough exercise, being obese and a family history of heart disease. The following lifestyle changes can put you on the right track to heart health:
Lifestyle change number 1: Make healthier food choices, this can impact at least five of the risk factors. Start by increasing fruits and vegetables and decreasing fat and sodium. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, beans or legumes and the remaining quarter with whole grains. Choose non fat dairy products, replace empty calorie snacks with heart healthy nutrient dense foods like nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Choose heart healthy olive oil when oil is required in a recipe. No fad diets here, just a simple, healthy approach.

Lifestyle change #2:
Move more! Find something you enjoy weather it’s the gym, biking, swimming, gardening, or simply walking and chances are you will stick with it if you enjoy doing it. Make it a goal to exercise 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes. Take every opportunity to add movement to your routine. Physical activity is critical to maintaining a healthy weight.
Lifestyle change #3: Know your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and BMI (Body Mass Index) numbers and what they mean and discuss them at regular checkups with your doctor!

For more information on Healthy Lifestyle Programming offered at Macon County Cooperative Extension contact Julie Sawyer, Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent at (828)349-2046 or email: Julie_sawyer@ncsu.edu.

The American Heart Association is a national voluntary health agency to help reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

For more infrmation on Heart Disease:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention