February is celebrated as American Heart Month, but the truth is a healthy heart is something that should take priority throughout the year.

Paul Mundt

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, and it has been estimated as the underlying cause of death for one out of four deaths in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.

You’re never too old or too young to make lifestyle changes that can help prevent heart disease.

Here are six simple steps you can take to remain heart healthy:

  1. Watch what you eat: The food you eat can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium, and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains.
  2. Exercise regularly: Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine to remain heart healthy. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity five times per week. Exercise can be anything that gets your body moving, and it can be as easy as taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  3. Stop smoking: Being smoke-free can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as cancer and chronic lung disease.
  4. Limit your alcohol intake: Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and increase the chances of a stroke. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Experts recommend no more than two drinks per day.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For overweight or obese adults with other risk factors such as high blood pressure, a weight loss of 3 percent to 5 percent of body weight can produce clinically significant results against heart disease prevention.
  6. Manage other health conditions: Manage health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Each of these are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and all can be managed through a healthy diet, physical activity and in some cases, medication.

Heart disease strikes more women than men and kills more women that all forms of cancer combined.

According to the AHA, almost two-thirds (64-percent) of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.

AHA recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. And while you’re at it, be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure at your next check-up.

Paul Mundt, NP is a cardiology nurse practitioner at Ascension Medical Group at Weston, 3301 Cranberry Blvd. For more information, call 715-393-3909 or visit ascension.org/wisconsin.

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