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Written by: Blanca Gutierrez, Project Coordinator, Community Clinic Consortium and a partner of the Solano Coalition for Better Health

February is the national heart health month observance in the USA. Learn more about what heart health is, who is impacted by heart disease, and some steps you can take to maintain good heart health for years to come.

The number one killer for both men and women, in the USA is heart disease [1]. The condition is so wide spread that one in every four deaths that occur can be attributed to heart disease. Most people that think about heart disease may believe it only impacts older adults in their 70s and 80s. This false sense of immunity experienced by some younger adults may encourage some to postpone healthy lifestyle choices. While it is true, that the risk for heart disease greatly increases as a person ages, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), states that younger adults suffer from heart disease at an increase rate.

A quick look at some statistics and it is easy to understand why heart disease is common. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one major risk factor that can lead to heart disease[2]. Those who suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are more likely to fall victim to heart disease. The risk increases for those who have a family health history of heart disease. This can be attributed to similar unhealthy lifestyle choices that are passed down from one generation to the next and through heredity. Knowing your family’s health history can help prepare you to consciously make lifestyle changes to prevent health conditions that run in your family.

Make changes to your diet with the goal of reducing your sodium intake. Salt is a cheap preservative for many canned goods and packaged products. Most of the time, canned foods include a high amount of salt for the sole purpose of extend their shelf life- not necessarily to enhance flavor. The next time you are at the grocery store, read the nutrition labels and opt to buy canned veggies that have no salt added or reduced sodium labels. If you are afraid of losing flavor when reducing salt, consider adding more herbs and spices to your meals. Herbs are not only delicious, they can also boost your immune system, and reduce inflammation. Reducing sodium can decrease high blood pressure – a major risk factor for heart disease [3].

Smoking greatly contributes to heart disease [4]. The damages of smoking are widespread to every organ of your body, including your heart. Smoking damages blood vessels, through the buildup of plaque in the arteries. The accumulation of this plaque overtime makes it difficult for healthy oxygen rich blood to reach your vital organs, making you susceptible to a heart attack and even death. If you have ever consider quitting, February is the perfect month to do so. For more information and help go to: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking/index.html?s_cid=OSH_tips_D9385.

It is important to understand risk factors for heart disease so that you may incorporate healthy habits today, for a healthier tomorrow.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/about.htm

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/salt/reduce_sodium_tips.htm

[4] https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/smoking-and-your-heart