February 14th is not the only day this month that we should wear red and think about our hearts. February is American Heart Health Month, an important initiative started by the American Heart Association to encourage men and women across the nation to focus on the importance of maintaining a healthy heart. Women in particular face serious risks for heart disease, heart attack, and other heart-related illnesses. This February, celebrate Heart Health Month by learning these important tips for reducing your risk of heart disease, and for staying healthy for your loved ones, this month and always.
If you smoke, quit.
According to the American Heart Association, smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke in women by two to four times. Women who smoke also have a 25 percent higher risk of developing heart disease compared to men.
Maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
A diet high in refined sugars and carbohydrates puts women at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a disease that makes adults two to four times more likely to develop heart disease or stroke.
Control your blood pressure.
High blood pressure is known as the silent killer, because it can sneak up on you quickly with deadly consequences. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder than normal. If not treated, it can damage and scar arteries, which puts women at risk for heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.
Manage your cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a fat-like material that builds in body and blood cells. Overtime, if not properly managed, cholesterol that builds up in the inner walls of the arteries hardens and turns to plaque. This plaque narrows the artery walls, making it difficult for blood to pass freely. In the most severe cases, blockages in the arteries can form which can lead to blood clots, stroke, and heart attack.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Adults, especially women, who carry an unhealthy and excessive amount of body weight put themselves at greater risk for heart-related health complications. Carrying too much weight can strain your heart, and lead to high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and can put you at risk of diabetes—all risk factors that can lead to heart disease.
Maintaining an active lifestyle can help manage several of the risk factors listed above. Being active can help you maintain a strong, healthy heart, maintain a healthy weight, lower your risk of diabetes, and help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Eat a healthy diet.
Staying active and eating healthy go hand-in-hand. You can reduce your risk of heart disease by maintaining a healthy diet full of healthy vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and grains. A healthy diet will help you maintain your weight, lowering your risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and ultimately, heart disease.
Remember, you are in control of your heart health. You don’t have to be a victim of a dangerous health incident. It’s never too late to start taking control of your heart health by making changes that will lower your risks. We recommend starting this February. Happy Heart Health Month from all of us at Chouchani, Sayegh and Bagnarello, MD!