Every year in February, we celebrate American Heart Month to help raise awareness about the proactive steps you can take to build and maintain a healthy heart. This year, we are going to focus on taking charge of health conditions that can potentially lead to heart disease.
Take Charge of Your Medical Conditions
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, you can take steps to lower your risk for heart disease.
Check Your Cholesterol
Your health care team should test your blood levels of cholesterol at least once every 4 to 6 years. If you have already been diagnosed with high cholesterol or have a family history of the condition, you may need to have your cholesterol checked more often. Talk with your health care team about this simple blood test. If you have high cholesterol, medicines and lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk for heart disease.
Control Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so have it checked on a regular basis. Your health care team should measure your blood pressure at least once every 2 years if you have never had high blood pressure or other risk factors for heart disease.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, also called hypertension, your health care team will measure your blood pressure more often to make sure you have the condition under control. Talk with your health care team about how often you should check your blood pressure. You can check it at a doctor’s office, at a pharmacy, or at home.
If you have high blood pressure, your health care team might recommend some changes in your lifestyle, such as lowering the sodium in your diet; your doctor may also prescribe medicine to help lower your blood pressure.
Manage Your Diabetes
If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels carefully. Talk with your health care team about treatment options. Your doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes to help keep your blood sugar under control.
Mitigating Other Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Aside from the health conditions mentioned above, there are several other factors that may contribute to developing heart disease.
An unhealthy diet can significantly increase your risk of developing heart disease. Staying away from foods with unhealthy amounts of saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and cholesterol can help decrease your risk. Try to include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains within your daily meals.
Throughout the week, taking part in moderate-intensity physical activities such as going for a bike ride or a brisk walk can also positively impact your heart health. Adults are recommended to get around two and a half hours of this type of exercise on a weekly basis.
Avoiding Harmful Substances
Limiting your alcohol consumption and abstaining from smoking can play a vital role in reducing your risk for heart disease.