Live Heart Healthy: It's American Heart Month

Feb 9, 2015

February is American Heart Month, an annual awareness campaign surrounding the nation’s number one killer—heart disease.

Almost half of Americans have at least one major risk factor for heart disease but fail to act upon warning signs in time. Reduce your risk of heart attack by learning the signs and having an early response and treatment. Here are the warning signs according to the American Heart Association:

  • Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: This can include both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath: This can be with or without chest discomfort
  • Other signs: Breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling nauseated or lightheaded

Knowing the signs is important for prevention; better safe than sorry. If you’re not sure if you’re experiencing a sign, consult your doctor. There are many simple ways you can lower you likelihood of having a heart attack. Start following these seven steps today to reduce your chance of a heart attack:

  1. Get active. It only takes 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week to decrease your risk of a heart attack by up to 50 percent.
  2. Control your cholesterol by eating foods low in cholesterol, saturated and trans fats, and maintain a healthy weight.
  3. Improve your diet by choosing one thing per week to focus on, such as eating more vegetables or fruits. Make small changes at first; these will add up to bigger changes down the road.
  4. Manage your blood pressure and get it checked routinely. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine to help keep your blood pressure within healthy ranges.
  5. Lose weight by adding in exercise and getting a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, high fiber foods and lean protein.
  6. Reduce your blood sugar levels and get your fasting blood sugar tested. A reading under 100 is considered to be in the healthy range. Lower your reading by reducing your consumption of simple sugars such as soda, candy and sugary desserts.
  7. Stop smoking. We all know the health benefits of quitting smoking for your lungs, but it also decreases your chance of a heart attack—even more incentive to stop.

Test your heart healthy knowledge with the American Heart Association’s My Life Check assessment and visit its website for more tips on keeping your heart in top shape.