February is American Heart Month, a time when people think of the human heart as a symbol of love. During the month of Valentine’s Day, we see more hearts and the color red than any other time during the year. Use this month to learn more about your risks for heart disease and stroke along with ways to stay healthy.
- Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of disability and death in people with type 2 diabetes. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart problems than people without diabetes. Fortunately, the American Hearth Association deems diabetes to be one of the controllable risk factors for heart disease.
- An effective diabetes self-management plan includes managing blood glucose levels, regular physical activity and a healthy diet that is good for your heart. Other risk factors besides diabetes include obesity, or having a waist that is larger than 35 inches for a woman or 40 inches for a man. Another heart risk factor is having low levels of HDL cholesterol or “good” cholesterol, and high levels of LDL cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol. High blood pressure is an additional risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. Smoking puts you at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke, which makes it important to quit this bad habit.
- During National Heart Month, people are reminded cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of men and women in the United States. It is also the leading cause of disability. Americans are unable to work or enjoy recreational activities. Cardiovascular disease costs the United States more than $300 billion annually for medications, health care services and loss of productivity.
- People with a family history of cardiovascular disease are at a higher risk for heart disease themselves. An additional factor may be geographical location. Studies conducted between 2007 and 2009 revealed death rates due to cardiovascular disease were lowest in the West and highest in the South. Race and ethnicity also affect your risk for heart disease. African-American people are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Cardiovascular disease deaths may be prevented or lessened through healthy lifestyle habits including the proper management of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Test your blood glucose levels regularly and report the results to your diabetes health care team. Use a blood pressure monitor at home to check your blood pressure and record the results to share with your doctor.
- Control the risk factors for heart disease with a healthy diet that includes low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish and whole grains. Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Maintain a healthy weight. Losing just 10 percent of your total body weight can make a difference. Sleep at least seven to eight hours each night. Reduce stress by taking time for recreation and including stretching exercises such as yoga or Tai Chi . Get an annual check up, even if you feel healthy. Take medications as prescribed by your doctor.
National Heart Month in February coincides with Valentine’s Day, a time to remember our hearts and how important they are. Use this opportunity to learn more about maintaining a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle. A few basic lifestyle changes could add years to your life and the lives of those you care about!