(RxWiki News) Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. But you can say no to heart disease by learning about the condition and taking steps to improve your heart health for American Heart Month this February.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is highlighting hypertension (high blood pressure) for American Heart Month 2021. According to the CDC, nearly 50 percent of Americans have high blood pressure, but only 25 percent have this heart disease risk factor under control.
Heart disease generally refers to conditions that involve blocked or narrowed blood vessels, which can lead to many issues, such as chest pain, heart attack and stroke.
Some risk factors are out of your control, but there are also many that you can control to lower your risk of heart disease. Risk factors you cannot control include older age, gender, family history, and race or ethnicity.
However, you do have control over the following factors:
- Maintain a normal blood pressure. A major risk factor for heart disease is high blood pressure, so it's important for you to get your blood pressure checked. If you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is recommended to have your blood pressure checked more often. Diet, exercise and, if needed, medications can help control your blood pressure.
- Keep your cholesterol levels in check. High cholesterol levels can cause your arteries to clog and increase your risk of heart disease. Medications and lifestyle changes can lower your cholesterol levels.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Another risk factor for heart disease is being overweight or obese. This is because being overweight or obese is also linked to other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and diabetes.
- Eat a healthy diet. Try incorporating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains into your diet and limiting your intake of saturated fats, added sugars and salt.
- Exercise. Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, make your heart stronger and improve your blood circulation. If your doctor OKs it, try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day to get your heart pumping.
- Get enough sleep. Getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night is important for lowering your risk of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, all of which can raise your risk for heart disease.
- Limit alcohol. Too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure. Because it is high in calories, alcohol can also contribute to weight gain. Women should not exceed one drink per day, while men should not exceed two drinks per day.
- Stop smoking. Smoking not only raises your blood pressure but also increases your risk for a stroke or heart attack. If you are looking to stop smoking, speak with your local pharmacist. He or she can be a great resource.
- Stress management. Stress can increase your risk for heart disease. One reason is because stress can raise your blood pressure. That's why it's important to learn how to deal with stress properly. Instead of dealing with stress by drinking heavily or overeating, opt for meditation, exercise or listening to music.
- Diabetes management. It is important to have your blood sugar checked because high blood sugar can eventually damage your heart.
Talk to your health care provider about which risk factors apply to you and what steps you should take toward a healthier heart.