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A Valentine’s Day gift for yourself
Treat your heart right
Published Tuesday, February 4, 2014
by Michaela L. Duckett

February is America Heart Month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in America. Every year, about 715,000 Americans have heart attacks, and about 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States—that’s 1 out of every 4 deaths in the country.

The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type in the United States is coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease), which occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Coronary heart disease can cause heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

Some health conditions and lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for developing heart disease. A recent survey conducted by Harvard Medical School found that marital status plays a role, particularly for men.

The survey found that married men tend to be healthier and live longer than men who are not married. The study attributes the health and longevity of married men over non-married men to the fact that married men tend to treat their hearts better with less incidences of alcohol intake and cigarette smoking. Another factor is they tend to be less stressed overall.

Whether you are male, female, married, coupled-up or single, there are steps you can take to keep your heart in shape for a long, healthy life. As you begin or continue on your journey, remember not to get overwhelmed or 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. Know that every step, no matter how small it seems, will bring you closer to your goal for a healthier heart.

Here’s a list of five heart healthy tips from Dr. Michael Kaplan, national medical director for NextCare Urgent Care.

1. Eat a healthy diet.

Selecting nutritious snack and meal options can help to prevent heart disease and its complications. Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is key; adults should have at least five servings each day. Beans and other low-fat sources of protein, and certain types of fish also can reduce the risk of heart disease. Selecting foods that are low in saturated fat and trans fat, and high in fiber can help to avoid high cholesterol. Also, limiting salt or sodium in your diet can decrease your blood pressure.

2. Stay physically active.

Regular exercise can help with maintaining a healthy weight, and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

3. Don’t smoke and limit alcohol intake.

Smoking cigarettes greatly increases the risk of developing heart disease. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Work with your doctor to find a way to help you quit.

Resist from drinking too much alcohol, which can elevate your blood pressure. Women should stick to no more than one drink per day, and men to no more than two drinks per day.

4. Maintain a healthy weight.

Being overweight can put you at an increased risk for heart disease. Even a small weight loss can be beneficial, as reducing your weight by just 10 percent can lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol level and the risk of diabetes. A doctor can help you determine whether your weight is in a healthy range or not.

5. Get regular health screenings.

High cholesterol and high blood pressure can damage the heart and blood vessels. But without testing for them, you probably won't know whether you have these conditions. Regular screenings can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.

It’s important to know your numbers. NextCare Urgent Care has 12 clinics in North Carolina that offer blood pressure screenings, and blood tests. For a list of local clinics, visit nextcare.com.


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