February is all about having heart – a healthy heart that is. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both women and men in the United States. One of every four deaths in the US each year is from heart disease. 

Recognized as National Heart Month, February is a good time to continue or start practicing healthy heart habits. The three biggest risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Almost half of the American population has one of these three risk factors. Of course, obesity, an unhealthy diet, and underlying medical issues also contribute to heart disease.

With staggering figures, it is hard to ignore the need to take care of your heart. What can we all do to make a difference? Start small and make small changes.

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Try to become more physically active. No one said you need to run a marathon, but walking is a good way to get exercise and improve your overall health. Start slow and gradually increase your walking speed and distance. It’s also a great way to get the whole family moving.

Try to eat healthier. Gradually eliminate food that does not contribute to your overall health. Foods loaded with salt should be the first thing to go. Salt increases blood pressure for many people. Checking food labels for added salt and sugar are always the best way to control salt intake.

Excessive drinking of alcohol also put added risk to a person’s heart.  It’s probably okay for most adults to enjoy a glass of wine, but overindulging is never a good idea.

Not everyone smokes, but those who do, damage their lungs with every puff. Besides the risk of lung cancer, smoking also causes Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Quitting smoking is probably the biggest and easiest way to prevent lung and heart disease. If you are a smoker, there are many medical options to help you kick the habit.

It doesn’t matter what kind of shape you are in because it’s never too late to start taking better care of your heart.  Celebrate Heart Month by making your health a priority and spreading the word.