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by Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance

Be heart-healthy during American Heart Month

A women checks her heart rate on her smart watch


Not only is February Black History Month, but it’s also American Heart Month, a time when all people are encouraged to focus on their cardiovascular health. February is full of love with Valentine’s Day but be sure to give yourself a valentine by showing love to your own heart!  


Give your heart a Valentine  


According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. One person dies every 33 seconds in the U.S. from heart disease. 


What is heart disease? 


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “heart disease” is a general term that refers to many different types of heart conditions. Coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects blood flow to the heart, is the most common type of heart disease in the U.S. Other types are irregular heartbeats, congenital heart defects, heart valve disease and disease of the heart muscle. 


What are the risk factors for heart disease? 


The American Heart Association (AHA) states that high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are among the risk factors for heart disease. The NCHS reports that about half of Americans have at least one of these three risk factors. The AHA also states that other medical conditions such as diabetes and obesity, as well as family history, are possible risk factors, too. 


How can I help prevent heart disease? 


A healthy diet and lifestyle are two of the most recommended ways to fight heart disease. 


Eating a healthy, balanced diet that, “emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins and limits saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium,” may reduce your chance of getting heart disease according to the CDC. 


The federal guidelines developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, available at Dietary Guidelines, for sodium is less than 2,300 mg daily however most Americans consume more than 3,400 mg a day, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Reducing your sodium intake may improve your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. 


Increasing your exercise may also boost your heart health. The AHA recommends 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day, or at least 150 minutes per week and encourages including resistance training and flexibility workouts in your exercise routine. 


Sleep and heart health go hand-in-hand, too. Sleep helps heal and repair your heart and blood vessels and can support overall wellness, which can help prevent heart disease. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults 18 years or older get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. 


Also, try to mollify any lifestyle risks you have. If you smoke, try to quit. If you suffer from obesity, create a plan with a medical professional to help you lose weight. Reduce alcohol consumption and take steps to reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. 


How do I know if I have heart disease? 


The only way to know for certain is to be diagnosed by a medical doctor. Each type of heart disease can present a range of symptoms and not everyone will have the same experience, states the AHA. For example, men are likely to have chest pain, while women are more likely to have other symptoms like shortness of breath or extreme fatigue. Some people don’t experience any symptoms. You should see your doctor for a thorough checkup and risk assessment and to find out if any diagnostic tests would be beneficial for you. 


Can I reverse heart disease? 


Medical professionals advise that regular exercise, a healthy diet and not smoking help prevent heart disease, but what if you already have heart disease?  


The good news is certain types of heart disease can be mitigated. Though lifestyle changes won’t unblock a clogged artery, they may prevent other blockages from happening. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests heart-healthy lifestyle changes to help prevent additional heart disease. In addition to exercising, quitting smoking and eating better, reducing stress and alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight and getting quality sleep may help. Many types of heart disease can also be managed with medication. Talk with your doctor to develop a heart-healthy plan tailored to your needs. 


This American Heart Month, give yourself a Valentine’s gift of a healthy heart. Even small healthy actions like eating right and moving more can have a large impact on protecting your heart. So, take precautions to prevent heart disease and see your doctor for regular checkups.  



*This information is not medical advice and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your medical professional to discuss personal health questions or medical conditions. 

The information in this Inside Story was obtained from a variety of sources not affiliated with Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance or their subsidiaries. This information is for educational purposes only and Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance does not recommend or endorse any specific opinions, procedures, or other information contained in this article.