February is American Heart Health Month, but how many of us actually put real stock into staying health-conscious when it comes to cardiovascular health? Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in United States? That heart disease, and the conditions leading up to it, can happen at any age? Or that it’s a condition totally preventable with proper diet and exercise? 

According to the Center for Disease Control, increasing rates of obesity and high blood pressure among people ages 35 to 64 are at high risk for heart disease, and at least half of all Americans have at least one of the top risk factors for heart disease, which include smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. 

Several of us may be aware we’re at risk, but we think, “That couldn’t happen to me,” or “Tomorrow I’ll do better.” The fact is, when it comes to your own heart health, you’re the one in control, and there are ways to steer our health in the right direction. If you’re a smoker, consider serious, healthy ways of kicking the habit for good. Smoking can lead to other serious health concerns like cancer or emphysema as well. A quick online glance at the CDC website can offer great tips, like how to manage cravings or seeking social support and motivation for quitting, and it offers other online resources to help smokers overcome the addiction. 

If obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol are major risk factors you face, take small steps to address those issues. Weight loss and healthier eating habits should become a lifestyle change, but remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Set short-term goals, ticking them each off your list as you reach them, and build upon them. Eliminate sodas for a week, and the next week replace a sugary snack with complex carbs, like fresh, raw vegetables. 

Maintaining an active lifestyle can also make a world of difference when it comes to your heart health. Again, take small steps to reach an easily obtainable goal and continue to build onto your progress. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks, because those are likely to happen. Get up the next day and bring your best game. 

Another helpful tip in managing your heart health is also found in managing your stress. While some stress is unavoidable, being conscious about your mental state makes a huge impact on your physical health as well. Excessive stressing can lead to overeating and high blood pressure, factors we’ve already discussed that lead to heart disease. Your body’s reaction to stress--the release of adrenaline, an increasing heart beat, muscle straining or tension, and a zap in energy--could also negatively affect your heart if long-term symptoms persist. 

Ways to manage stress vary from practicing better time management, practicing healthy exercise habits, maintaining a positive attitude and finding ways to relax. Those tips can also be found on the CDC website or by doing a quick google search. Whatever works for you, just remember if your stress or anxiety feels chronic, it’s probably best to start practicing some of those helpful tricks. 

Keep your ticker ticking by taking heart health seriously. Even if you think it could never happen to you, statistics show, it’s actually very likely unless you take control of your own health.

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