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The path to a healthy life is not always one that is marked with a clear direction and Google Maps to assist you when you get lost. Our temptations can often get the best of us and we sometimes need a caution sign or two, to get us back on the right path. This month is the American Heart Month and it’s designed to do just that.

Heart health training weight sport concept on white backgroundUnfortunately, heart disease is the number one cause of death among women and men in the United States. Each year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack and nearly 600,000 people die from heart disease (1 out of 4 deaths). This means that more than likely, you or someone you love has either been effected by heart disease or knows someone who has. Which is why it is so important to start taking the necessary steps to help eliminate heart disease and get yourself on a healthy path.

What is heart disease?

The term ‘heart disease’ can refer to many different types of heart conditions. The most common in the U.S. is coronary heart disease, which is caused by plaque build up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This can lead to a heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

Heart attack symptoms

The CDC list the following as the five major symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder.
  • Shortness of breath.

If you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should immediately call 9-1-1.

The cost of heart disease

When you add up the total costs of health care services, medications, and lost productivity, the costs of heart disease, strokes, and cardiovascular disease add up to about $312.6 billion annually to the U.S. On top of that, these conditions are also the leading cause of disabilities that prevent Americans from working.

All the numbers add up to a pretty scary future for many who could be at risk to heart disease. However, there is good news. Heart disease is actually quite preventable and is able to be controlled if you follow the right steps.

Tips from the CDC

The CDC is offering the following tips to keep your heart in tip-top shape:

  • Eat a healthy diet. What you put in your body is extremely crucial to your body’s health and performance. Remember, adults need at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.  Obesity is a leading cause of heart disease. A quick and easy way to determine whether or not your weight is healthy, is to use a body mass index (BMI) calculator. 
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise will keep your body weight in check, while keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure in the norm. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise during most days of the week.
  • Monitor your blood pressure. A high blood pressure does not offer many warnings. Therefore, you need to have it checked regularly.
  • Don’t smoke. Cigarette use will significantly increase your risk for heart disease. If you do smoke, see your doctor for information on the steps you need to take to be smoke free.
  • Limit alcohol use. Heavy drinking can greatly increase your blood pressure, which puts you at a high risk for heart disease. The CDC recommends that if you do drink, men should have no more than two drinks per day, while women have no more than one.
  • Have your cholesterol checked. It is recommended that you have your cholesterol levels checked once every five years. It is a simple blood test that should be done at your doctor.
  • Manage your diabetes.  If you have diabetes, pay close attention to your blood sugar levels and talk to your doctor regularly about treatment options.
  •  Take your medicine. It’s never a good idea to ignore your medication, especially if it is for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. Always follow doctors orders and never hesitate to ask questions.

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