February is American Heart Month and the month in which the “heart-throbbing” Valentine’s Day occurs—a day when your heart may just beat a little stronger for those you love. So, what better time to talk about heart health?
Most people think that the topic of heart health, particularly heart disease, is a topic that should be discussed for other people, but not for them personally. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. Heart disease, also called coronary artery disease (CAD) or ischemic heart disease, is a major killer and instigator of disability.
In fact, each year, approximately 600,000 Americans die from heart disease—that’s one out of every four deaths—making heart disease the leading cause of death for both men and women.
It’s also a strain on the economy, workforce and families, costing $312.6 billion each year and leading to disability, preventing people from working and from enjoying family activities.
Heart disease is a result of atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries.” In atherosclerosis, fatty deposits of cholesterol and other cellular waste products build up in the heart’s arteries’ inner linings. This results in artery blockages and prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart. Oxidation from free radical damage is also an important trigger of atherosclerosis as is systemic, unrelenting bodily inflammation that can also directly and adversely affect the plaque in single arteries and throughout the arteries leading to the heart.
And here’s the kicker: heart disease is preventable because there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk of heart disease, including eating a healthy diet. Some heart-healthy foods and drinks to enjoy (organic, of course) are salmon, tuna, flaxseed, chia seed, spinach, broccoli and other greens; sweet potatoes; red bell peppers; tomatoes; papaya; cantaloupe; blueberries, almonds, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil; red wine (with resveratrol), in moderation; and dark chocolate, with 70 percent or higher cocoa content.
Additionally, staying at a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, lowering your cholesterol, getting enough exercise and not smoking—to name a few more—can help lower your risk for heart disease. In fact, for women, having just one risk factor such as high blood pressure, smoking or being overweight, doubles their risk for heart disease. That’s why it’s so important to take steps to lower your risk for heart disease in all ways possible.
So, go ahead and enjoy this “heart throbbing” month noted for love, but be sure you take care of your heart, too—all year long.