February is a time when love is in the air. It also is American Heart Month. While you're thinking of hearts this Valentine's Day, do yourself — and your loved ones — a favor: Focus on your own heart.
Heart disease is the number one killer in America. Nearly 2,400 Americans die from it each day. About one in three Americans has one or more kinds of heart disease.
You can lower your risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke by following familiar advice: Lose weight if you are overweight, exercise regularly, eat foods that are low in fat and cholesterol, and do not smoke.
As we all know, sometimes the basics are easier said than done. Here are steps you can take for your heart's health:
- Do regular physical exercise tailored to your abilities, needs and interests. Exercise doesn't have to involve training for a marathon. Even walking can help. Ask a friend, colleague, or family member to join you in your efforts.
- Learn about your heart problem, its causes and treatments, and how you can manage it. The resources listed (see sidebar) are good places to start.
- Get advice on why and how to change your lifestyle to lower your risk of heart disease. Start by asking your doctor or other health care provider.
- Learn specific skills to help you stop unhealthy behaviors (such as smoking) and begin healthy behaviors, including eating a heart-healthy diet.
February is a great time to think about your heart health and how you can prevent heart disease. Take the first steps for a longer, healthier life.
I'm Dr. Carolyn Clancy, and that's my advice on how to navigate the health care system.
Carolyn M. Clancy, a general internist and researcher, is the director of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.