Show your love for your heart during this month-long education campaign.

Many of us may take our heart for granted but it is perhaps our body’s most vital organ.  As your heart beats it pumps blood around your body which sends oxygen and nutrients all around your body and removes unwanted carbon dioxide and waste products. No one can live without a heart.

As it has been called Heart Health Awareness Month since the early 1960s, February is a time to focus on how we can prevent cardiovascular diseases and maintain a healthy beating heart that continues to provide the life function that we need to survive.

“Most American deaths are due to heart disease,” noted Cara Epps, Director of Respiratory Therapy “About 660,000 people die from some form of heart disease each year,” she went on.   Because of this high number of deaths attributed to heart diseases it is important to know about this disease and understand how we can prevent it from impacting us to the best of our ability.

“In addition to checking in regularly with your healthcare provider, things you can do on your own to guard against cardiovascular complications include staying aware of your blood pressure, cutting out smoking, maintaining a low cholesterol level, eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting regular daily exercise and eliminating as much stress as possible from your routine,” Epps said.

Heart disease can creep into our lives without us even knowing it.  According to the American Heart Association (AHA) nearly 9 million Americans live with some form of heart disease.  That figure amounts to more than 1 in 3 adults. Knowing your risk for cardiovascular complications is quite important given its pervasiveness.  That’s why it is important to check in with your medical provider regularly so that you can make sure your blood pressure is at a good rate as well as your cholesterol numbers. 

“You can help yourself control some of your risk of heart disease by following a balanced diet of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and limiting starches,” explained Epps.  “In addition, getting about 150 minutes of exercise a week, which comes down to about 30 minutes a day for five days is also helpful.”  Exercise should be some type of activity that gets your heart beating faster like running, biking, walking fast or maybe a group exercise class at the Swan Family Wellness Center.

Techniques to limit stress could include yoga, listening to music, reading, or relaxing in the sunshine when that is possible.   “Anything that takes your mind off concerns that weigh on you is good,” Epps said.

Scheduling a thorough physical examination which takes a look at some of your risks, such as weight, blood pressure, cardiovascular fitness and family history can be your first step. Your healthcare provider can advise you on whether or not you might benefit from other tests that will allow the medical provider to take a closer look at how your heart functions.  If you are found to be at risk for heart disease, your medical provider can supply you with the information and programs to fight back.  Prescribed medication, a medically directed diet, and an exercise program are the some of the usual options prescribed to improve your health.

“Your heart is perhaps your body’s best friend and you should treat it kindly and gently,” stated Epps. “During the month of February take the opportunity to learn more techniques for heart healthy living and be sure to contact your local healthcare provider for your annual wellness exam.”