February Is American Heart Month

by Lynne Clement, Communications Specialist, DPHS

February is American Heart Month, making it an ideal time to think about heart health and to learn the major risk factors for preventing heart disease. The focus of this year’s American Heart Month is on high blood pressure, a major risk factor for developing heart disease. High blood pressure is very common and usually has no symptoms, which is why it is often referred to as the silent killer. The only way to know if you have it is to get your blood pressure measured.

Nationally, heart disease and stroke are the two leading causes of death for Americans. About 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, accounting for one in every four deaths. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are major risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans have at least one of these three risk factors. Other factors that increase the risk for heart disease include diabetes, obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.

People can take steps to lower their risk of developing heart disease. Reduce your risk for heart disease through lifestyle changes and by managing medical conditions. Below are five ways to make changes today:

  1. Find time to be active. Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
  2. Make healthy eating a habit. Small changes in your eating habits can make a big difference. Try making healthier versions of your favorite recipes. How? Look for ways to lower sodium and trans fat and add more fruits and vegetables.
  3. Quit tobacco—for good. Quitting can be tough, but it can be easier when you feel supported. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) today to speak with a quit coach and get free nicotine replacement therapies.
  4. Know your numbers. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are major risk factors for heart disease. Ask your health care team to check your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels regularly and help you take steps to control your levels.
  5. Stick to the script. Taking your medications can be tough, especially if you feel fine. But sticking with your medication routine is important for managing and controlling conditions that could put your heart at risk.

The NH Department of Health and Human Services has a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the overall goal of helping people prevent and control high blood pressure and diabetes. Specific strategies to achieve this goal in New Hampshire include supporting self-measured blood pressure monitoring programs and working with health care providers to refer at-risk patients to community programs designed to address risk factors for high blood pressure and heart disease.

For more information on heart disease, including how to reduce risk through lifestyle changes and by managing medical conditions, please click here.

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