healthy latin women holding heart outside in a city. Concept for heart health.

February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about heart disease and its risk factors.  It’s an appropriate time for self-examination about lifestyle choices and how to better live a heart healthy lifestyle.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans and much can be done to prevent it.  Take steps now to reduce your risk and make healthy lifestyle choices.

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for heart disease.  They can be divided into two categories: those we can change, and those we don’t have control over.  The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance of developing heart disease.

The following risk factors are generally not in our control:

  • A family history of early heart disease
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Age – over 45 for men and over 55 for women
  • Ethnicity – risk is higher for African Americans, native Americans, native Hawaiians, and south Asians
  • Women who have gone through early menopause
  • Women who developed preeclampsia during pregnancy

Controllable risk factors including the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Lower Your Risk

Senior hispanic couple staying active on a jog.

Following these measures can help reduce the risk for heart disease:

  • Control blood pressure – Check it regularly.  Eat a healthy diet, limit sodium, exercise regularly, and manage stress.
  • Lower cholesterol – Eat foods lower in fat and eliminate trans-fat.  Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  Increase consumption of soluble fiber.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Excess weight around the midsection increases the risk for heart disease.  Being overweight or obese also increases the risk of developing diabetes.
  • Quit smoking – Smokers are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop heart disease than nonsmokers.  Smoking damages blood vessels and reduces blood flow from the heart.
  • Stay active – Strive for 30-60 minutes of physical activity each day.  Activity doesn’t have to be vigorous or a sport.  Walking, biking, swimming, and gardening are all good ways to keep active.  Exercise helps to control weight and can alleviate stress.

Get Regular Health Screenings

Regular physical exams by a physician and health screenings are important.  They let you know what your numbers are and whether you need to make changes.  Problems can be identified early, when they may be easier to treat.  If you haven’t seen your doctor in a while, it’s time to schedule a health checkup.

The physicians at RMD Primary Care are available to provide for your healthcare needs.  Contact us today to schedule an appointment.