BOISE, Idaho — February is American Hearth Month, and there's no better time to make sure you're staying heart healthy with simple lifestyle changes.
The CDC reports heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women and most racial and ethnic groups. In fact, one in four Americans die from heart disease each year--that's about 647,000 Americans and one person every 37 seconds dying from cardiovascular disease. From 2014 to 2015, heart disease cost the US about $219 billion. That amount includes the cost of health care services, medicines, and lost productivity due to death.
Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing nearly 366,000 people in 2017. Just over 18 million adults 20 years old and over have CAD, with about two in 10 deaths reported in adults under 65.
In the US, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Of the 805,000 Americans who have a heart attack each year, 605,000 are a first heart attack, 200,000 happen to people who've already had a heart attack, and about one in five is silent--meaning the damage is done but the person isn't aware of it.
So how can you avoid heart issues? Simple lifestyle changes can help keep your heart healthy. First, don't smoke or vape. If you are smoking or vaping, quit as soon as possible. Second, know your numbers. Be aware of your healthy weight, cholesterol, and your blood pressure. Third, check with your doctor to learn your blood sugar. Ask for a diabetic check up during a wellness visit. Finally, get active, even during winter. Just walking 20 minutes a day can dramatically improve your health. If you aren't ready to walk 20 minutes, start small with five to ten minutes a day and build up your time and distances.
Your diet can also make a major difference, both reversing effects and preventing future problems. Try increasing your consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains. Also make sure to put a focus on heart smart proteins like salmon. Limit junk food. Processed foods and sugar should be reduced or avoided completely.
Other ways to help stay heart healthy: rest. You're encouraged to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Try reducing your stress levels as well. You can do so by setting aside a 15-minute quiet period each day. Close your eyes, be free of digital devices, slow your breathing and de-stress.