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Heart Health Tips for American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, a time when all people should focus on their cardiovascular health.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of Americans, causing approximately 695,000 deaths per year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023). In fact, 1 out of every 5 deaths in the United States is a result of cardiovascular disease. That’s a death every 33 seconds.

By the year 2060, projected rates of cardiovascular risk factors and disease will increase significantly in the United States, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The researchers analyzed projected rates for the following cardiovascular risk factors: diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity; and the following cardiovascular diseases: ischemic heart disease, heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

Among the general U.S. population, all four cardiovascular risk factors are expected to increase from 2025 to 2060, with the largest percentage increase in diabetes (39.3% increase to 55 million persons), followed by dyslipidemia (27.6% to 126M), hypertension (25.1% to 162M) and obesity (18.3% to 126M). The researchers found that stroke (33.8% to 15M) and heart failure (33.4% to 13M) were the highest projected increases in rates of cardiovascular diseases, followed by ischemic heart disease (30.7% to 29M) and heart attack (16.9% to 16M).

However, about 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases may be preventable with education and action. Here are eight tips to help prevent heart disease:

  1. Check to your blood pressure – Getting your blood pressure checked regularly is essential. If pressure is too high, the force can damage artery walls and create scar tissue, which makes it difficult for blood and oxygen to get to and from the heart.
  2. Stop smoking – Quitting smoking is the best thing that you can do for your heart and overall health.
  3. Sleep – Try for at least 7 hours – By sleeping between 7 and 8 hours a night, you could reduce the amount of calcium in your arteries, which is an early sign of heart disease.
  4. Get screened for diabetes – Untreated diabetes can lead to heart problems, among many other complications.
  5. Exercise – Sitting for too long every day can lead to heart disease and an increased risk of diabetes. Try to get at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week of moderate exercise, 20 minutes out of every hour.
  6. Eat smart – A healthy diet full of heart-smart foods is essential to a healthy heart and lifestyle. Salmon, nuts, berries, and oats are just a few of the heart “superfoods” that may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.
  7. Cut out junk food.
  8. Stay calm – Stress increases cortisol, which leads to weight gain, a key risk factor for heart disease.
Remember, combining regular physical activity with a healthy diet along with adequate sleep, effective stress management and avoidance of tobacco can dramatically cut your risk of heart disease and premature death.

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