February is American Heart Month, an annual reminder to take care of your heart.  American Heart Month provides Americans with the opportunity to learn about heart health and how to lower their risk of developing heart disease.

Heart disease—and the underlying conditions—can happen at any age. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. The good news is that heart disease can often be prevented when people make smart choices and manage their health conditions.

Unfortunately, conditions and behaviors that put people at risk for heart disease are appearing at younger ages:

  • High blood pressure. Millions of Americans have high blood pressure and roughly half of them don’t have it under control. High blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and other harmful conditions such as strokes.
  • High cholesterol. High cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease.  Diabetes, obesity, smoking, an unhealthy diet, and sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to high cholesterol.
  • Smoking. More than 37 million U.S. adults currently smoke and thousands of young people start smoking each day. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease.

Other factors call also affect your risk for heart disease:

  • Obesity. Carrying extra weight puts added stress on the heart. 
  • Diabetes. Diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood. This can damage blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscle.
  • A sedentary lifestyle. Staying physically active helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. 
  • Unhealthy eating patterns. Most Americans eat too much sodium which increases blood pressure. Replacing foods high in sodium with fresh fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure. 

What can you do to take control of your heart health?

Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, it’s time to quit.

Make heart-healthy eating changes.  Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables while limiting saturated fats, salt, and foods containing cholesterol, such as fatty meats.

Stay active. Get moving for at least 30 minutes of physical activity almost every day.