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Monthly Health Topics

Give Your Heart Some Love this Valentine's Day

By Susan Beane, M.D., Vice President and Medical Director, Healthfirst
With Valentine’s Day occurring this month, February is a time to think about love. It’s fitting that February is also American Heart Month, a time to focus on showing some love to your heart, your body’s most important muscle.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. A healthy lifestyle can help prevent many of the deaths attributable to heart disease and its associated cardiovascular conditions, including high blood pressure and stroke.
The American Heart Association has identified the seven lifestyle changes with the greatest impact on health. These are called Life’s Simple 7 — the seven areas with the greatest benefit for our hearts. This Valentine’s Day, commit to caring for your heart by making these lifestyle choices:
Get Active: Getting regular exercise makes you feel and look good, and it can help to improve your health. Try to get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week, like walking for half an hour a day five days a week. Of course, check with you doctor prior to starting any exercise routine.
Control Cholesterol: Controlling your cholesterol can help keep your arteries free of blockages. Get a cholesterol screening and talk to your doctor about the results. Exercise, a healthy diet, and prescription medication can help keep your cholesterol in a healthy range.
Eat Better: Eat a diet with lots of colorful vegetables and fruits, nuts, and whole grains. Try to eat at least two servings of oily fish each week.
Manage Blood Pressure: If you take medication for high blood pressure, take it as prescribed. You can also control your blood pressure by cutting back on alcohol, managing your stress, not smoking, and limiting salty foods.
Lose Weight: Two out of three American adults are overweight or obese, putting them at greater risk of heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the strain on your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and bones. Watch what you eat and get exercise to lose weight. Dropping even a few pounds can make a big difference for your heart.
Reduce Blood Sugar: Get a blood test to check your blood sugar, and talk with your doctor about the results. You can keep your blood sugar levels under control by avoiding sweet drinks, candies, and other sweets, and by getting regular exercise.
Stop Smoking: Smokers are at higher risk of developing heart disease. The good news is that your lungs begin to heal as soon as you quit smoking, and the health benefits continue to grow the longer you stay tobacco free. Visit www.NySmokeFree.org for more information and help quitting.
If it seems too difficult to make changes in all seven areas at once, start by focusing on one or two; move on to the others once you’ve adjusted. And be sure to share this information with someone you love. You just might save their life. For more information on Life’s Simple 7TM, visit www.mylifecheck.heart.org.
Dr. Beane is Vice President and Medical Director at Healthfirst. The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

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