Get Healthy Carson City: Love your heart

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

Valentine’s Day may be over, but you still can keep the love flowing, because February is also Heart Month. This is a great opportunity to show your heart some love.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths. High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key heart disease risk factors for heart disease, along with several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices that can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease. You can take steps to reduce your risk of heart disease and keep your heart healthy and happy all year long.

Unhealthy eating is an important risk factor for heart disease, so eat for heart health. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein for heart health. A bonus: Healthy eating can help you lose weight, and being overweight is another risk factor for heart disease. To really show your heart some love, choose foods that are low in sodium, since a high-sodium diet has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, as well.

Get moving. Regular exercise can not only reduce stress, but also can help you to be in better cardiovascular shape — and that’s great news for your heart. You can gain important health benefits with just 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise throughout the week — that’s just a half hour walk each day during the workweek. If you aren’t exercising regularly, talk to your doctor about it and start slow. Some activity is always better than no activity!

Call the vice squad. Smoking and excessive alcohol use are two important contributors to heart disease. One of the best health decisions you can make for your heart and for the rest of your body is to quit smoking. If you’re a smoker, your risk of heart disease, lung disease, stroke, and cancer are all increased. Do your heart and yourself a favor and make the choice to kick the tobacco habit. If you need help or encouragement, call the QuitLine at 800-784-8669 for free resources to help you quit tobacco.

So many Americans are impacted by heart disease. However, there’s something we can do about it. Taking small steps to adopt a healthier lifestyle can pay off in the long run. A better quality of life and more years to spend with loved ones are the benefits of a healthy heart — and that’s something we can all love.

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