American Heart Month—Show Your Heart Some Love
From heart-shaped chocolates to heart-shaped pizza, February has no shortage of goodies to remind us it’s the month of love. But Valentine’s Day isn’t the only heart-related event this month—February is also American Heart Month. American Heart Month was created 57 years ago to raise awareness of heart disease in the U.S., which remains a leading cause of death for Americans. With so many heart-shaped items in the mix this month, February is an apt time to give our real hearts some attention too.
The Facts About Heart Disease
- Heart disease remains the no. 1 cause of death for adults in the U.S.1
- 1 in 4 American deaths are caused by heart disease each year2
- Heart disease has cost the U.S. as much as $219 billon in one year3
- Each year, nearly 805,000 Americans have a heart attack3
How to Lower Your Risk
Fortunately, many of the risk factors for heart disease are preventable when you adapt healthy habits. If the past year has left you struggling to focus on your heart health, here are some tips to help you get back on track.
Getting enough sleep isn’t only important for healthy brain function—it also plays an important role in your heart health. As you move through the stages of sleep, your body becomes more relaxed and your blood pressure drops. The more regular sleep you miss, the longer your blood pressure stays higher. Getting enough sleep helps prevent high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease. Lack of regular sleep can also make it difficult to maintain other heart-healthy habits, such as physical activity and a healthy diet. If you struggle with getting enough sleep, check out this blog post for some helpful tips.
You may have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” While it sounds dramatic, it’s not that far off the mark. More than 60 percent of Americans are not getting the recommended level of physical activity, and this lack of movement is one of the leading risk factors associated with heart disease. Not getting enough physical activity can also contribute to other heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
The good news? You don’t have to be a gym rat for your heart to reap the benefits of physical activity. Taking short walks, standing for an hour or two at your desk (or during meetings if you work from home), and even housework are all simple approaches that can help you get moving and improve your heart health.
At this point, we all know what we eat impacts our health. And yet, poor diet remains a leading risk factor for high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease. The American Heart Association suggests limiting saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets, and sugary beverages to maintain a heart-healthy diet. That may sound like a handful, but making positive changes to your diet could be as simple as cutting down on soda, using smaller plates to help control your portions, or choosing fruits and veggies for a midday snack. Cooking your own meals is also a great way to dodge the added sugars, fats, and sodium commonly found in processed foods. If you’re looking for some tips on cooking at home, be sure to read our beginner’s guide to meal prepping.
No matter how you decide to show your heart some love this month, remember to start with small changes that are sustainable. Drastic lifestyle shifts can be overwhelming, but even minor, positive adjustments in our daily living can help build habits that are kind to our heart.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2018. CDC WONDER Online Database. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2018. Accessed March 12, 2020.
2 Virani SS, Alonso A, Benjamin EJ, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2020 update: a report from the American Heart Associationexternal icon. Circulation. 2020;141(9):e139–e596.
3 Fryar CD, Chen T-C, Li X. Prevalence of uncontrolled risk factors for cardiovascular disease: United States, 1999–2010 pdf icon[PDF-494K]. NCHS data brief, no. 103. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2012. Accessed May 9, 2019.