FRANKLIN – You may have heard February is Heart Health Month, but what does that mean? The first American Heart Month took place in February 1964 to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease. At the time this was the cause of more than half the deaths in the US. While we have made improvements, the American Heart Association estimates heart disease claims about 2,200 lives each day, that’s one death due to cardiovascular disease every 40 seconds!
So what is heart disease? Heart disease is a term used for a variety of diseases of the heart and blood vessels such as coronary artery disease, heart rhythm disorders and defects of the heart present at birth. It can cause high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, blood clots and be a factor in other vascular problems causing loss of function, pain or even limb amputation, all of which can lead to death. If you are one of the 23.4 million US adults to have diabetes, the risk is even higher. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states,
“Over time, high blood glucose from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. In adults with diabetes, the most common causes of death are heart disease and stroke. Adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes.”
Despite increased attention to it, heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It is an equal opportunity killer which claims approximately 1 million lives annually.
What can you do to reduce your risk, help prevent this disease and endear yourself to your Valentine?
First, do a little family research. Knowing your family health history and your own risk factors for heart disease are good starts. Next take that new-found knowledge to your check-up and talk with your healthcare provider about what you’ve learned. Don’t have a regular check-up scheduled? That should be your next step, your provider will be your partner in managing your risk factors. One huge risk factor – smoking. I bet you have heard it before, but if you smoke, quit. Try www.quitnownh.org for free resources and support. Showing your intelligence and wit is sure to win hearts, and help your own.
Another important step is your diet. Eating foods low in low in salt, saturated and transfats and high in unsaturated fats like the Mediterranean Diet is better for your heart. That means skipping the fried fish and chips in favor of the salmon with avocado and tomatoes, but in the end it’s a more flavorful option as well as being healthier, and what a romantic dinner it could be!
Lastly, don’t forget to add exercise in to your day. Taking part in moderate aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week or more vigorous workouts at least 20 minutes three times a week helps keep your heart strong, your vessels clear and even improves your mood. Think that’s not romantic? Try a walk at the beach, a hike to a picnic or an evening of dancing. You could even take up gardening to grow your love a rose garden.
Don’t have a valentine? Be your own. In the words of Marianne Williamson, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” So shine your light, help your heart, and celebrate!
Looking for quality, local home care or hospice service? Franklin VNA & Hospice is an independent, non-profit organization established in 1945 to serve the Home Health care needs of the community. They provide home care, Hospice, clinic and community education services to Andover, Belmont, Boscawen, Canterbury, Franklin, Hill, Northfield, Sanbornton, Salisbury, Tilton, Webster and surrounding towns, as requested. For more information, call Franklin VNA & Hospice at (603)934-3454 or visit www.FranklinVNA.org your local VNA.