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February is American Heart Month

Posted February 19, 2014 in Advice Column, Winterset

Every journey begins with one step, whether it’s climbing a mountain or preventing heart disease. Every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year — that’s one out of every four deaths. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. However, heart disease is also preventable and controllable.

One step at a time
As you begin your journey to better heart health, keep these things in mind:
• Don’t become overwhelmed. Every step brings you closer to a healthier heart.
• Don’t go it alone. The journey is more fun when you have company. Ask friends and family to join you.
• Don’t get discouraged. You may not be able to take all of the steps at one time. Get a good night’s sleep and do what you can tomorrow.
• Reward yourself. Find fun things to do to decrease your stress. Round up some colleagues for a lunchtime walk, join a singing group, or have a healthy dinner with your family or friends.

Plan for prevention
Some health conditions and lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for developing heart disease. You can help prevent heart disease by making healthy choices and managing any medical conditions you may have.
• Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet also can lower your blood pressure.
• Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease.
• Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure..
• Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis.
• Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.
• Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure.
• Have your cholesterol checked. Your health care provider should test your cholesterol levels at least once every 5 years.
• Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and talk with your doctor about treatment options.
• Take your medicine. If you’re taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something.

We want you to live a longer and healthier life. See your provider and, as a team, write out a plan to strengthen your heart.

Information provided by Chris Nolte, director, Public Relations and Development, Madison County Health Care Systems, 300 West Hutchings, Winterset, 515-462-9749.

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