February is American Heart Month, a time when the nation spotlights heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death globally, with more than 17 million deaths each year. Now is the perfect time to learn about your heart disease risk and the steps you need to take to help your heart.

Focusing on your heart health has never been more critical. People with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

While there are several different heart disease forms, they share common symptoms and warning signs. It’s essential to learn these symptoms to receive a prompt diagnosis and medical treatment. Symptoms of an emergency may include:

• Chest pain, discomfort or an uncomfortable pressure in the chest.

• Shortness of breath.

• Pain in the upper body, arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach.

• Feeling nauseous or vomiting.

• Sweating or cold sweats.

• Weakness, light-headedness, feeling faint or dizzy.

• Feeling extraordinarily full or having indigestion.

• Fatigue or exhaustion.

• An irregular heartbeat, palpitations, or increased heart rate.

While in lockdown, more people have engaged in unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, such as eating poorly, drinking more alcohol and limiting physical activity. By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels regular and lower your heart disease risk and heart attack risk. Here are some healthy habits to help prevent heart disease.

Choosing healthy food and drinks

Choose healthy meals and snacks to help prevent heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Do not drink too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women no more than one drink.

Maintaining a healthy weight

People overweight or obese have a higher risk of heart disease. Carrying extra weight can put additional stress on the heart and blood vessels.

Getting regular exercise

Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. The Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, for adults, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get one hour of physical activity every day.

Not smoking

Cigarette smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk of heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you stop.

With increased awareness, education and lifestyle changes, we can help more Americans live longer, fuller, healthier lives and advocate for healthy habits. American Heart Month should be used as a reminder to take care of your body and your health as you age to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and other health conditions. It’s never too late to start living a healthy lifestyle.

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