American Heart Month aims to raise awareness about the risks and signs of heart disease, and to encourage more Americans to make healthy decisions. Nearly half of adults in the U.S. have cardiovascular disease and 1 in every 4 deaths are attributed to heart disease. Shockingly, our recent consumer survey found that 71 percent of Americans were unaware that heart disease is the leading cause of death.
In addition, Health and Human Services recently found that the number of younger individuals (35-64) with heart disease is rising, although the death rates from heart disease are slowing. These findings illustrate that despite efforts, Americans are still struggling to understand the risks of heart disease. We hope to provide better information to increase that understanding.
Knowing the facts and changing what’s in your control are key first steps.
When it comes to heart disease, there are several factors to consider such as lifestyle, family history and age. The CDC reports that 47 percent of Americans have at least one of the three biggest risk factors, including high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and smoking. The bad news is that your family history and age are not something you can change. The good news is that you can take control of your lifestyle to not only ward off the risk of heart disease but to help improve your overall health.
To help you on that journey, we’ve outlined five ways you can prioritize your health and combat the risk of heart disease.
1. If you smoke, quit now! This is the first and hardest step but smokingfree.gov finds that with a proper plan, identifying triggers and distraction techniques, quitting is possible.
2. Get the blood pumping with a workout. Regular exercise has many benefits beyond just physical health. Exercise reduces stress, releases endorphins, improves sleep and much more. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, which can range from walking to cycling. Customize your workouts and do something you love.
3. Eat a well-balanced diet. Similar to exercise, maintaining a healthy diet can benefit your overall health. Aim to eat more vegetables (frozen or fresh) and lean protein (grilled chicken, salmon, turkey breast, etc.) with each meal. Don’t forget, snacks count, so think twice before grabbing the potato chips over an apple or celery sticks. The CDC outlines useful guidelines on diet here.
4. Take your health into your own hands. Establish a relationship with your physician as a key first step to better manage your health. Discuss your family history of heart disease, your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, plus any questions you have about new products or data you have researched.
5. Follow the doctor’s orders. Once you’ve established a strong relationship with your doctor, listen and follow the plan they have outlined for you—whether that is to lose weight, eat a balanced diet or take your prescription. If you have concerns or side effects, it is important to discuss these with your doctor as well.