February is American Heart Month

American Heart Month

Are you or a loved one at risk for heart disease? Physical inactivity, high blood pressure, obesity and other factors can increase the chances of cardiovascular problems, but there are steps you can take to keep your heart healthy.

February is American Heart Month, created by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 to increase public awareness of heart disease. Medical authorities note that some of the risk factors for stroke and heart disease can be controlled or even eliminated.

For older adults, American Heart Month represents the ideal opportunity to make lifestyle changes that can significantly boost heart health.

National Wear Red Day

Most people are aware that heart disease is the most common cause of death for men. In recent years, organizers of National Wear Red Day have sought to increase awareness that heart disease also stands as the leading killer of women. For senior men and women, heart disease poses significant danger of debilitation or death.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association founded National Wear Red Day in 2003 as heart disease kills nearly half a million U.S. women each year. In many cases, women do not take their risk for the disease seriously enough and believe it affects mostly men. On Feb. 2, during American Heart Month, people around the country will wear red to help increase awareness of the deadly impact of heart disease on women.

Keeping Your Heart Healthy

For senior men and women at every level of independence, healthy choices can aid in preventing and managing heart disease. By working with health care providers, care partners and loved ones, older adults can make meaningful changes that impact their health in positive ways.

Consider taking the following steps to help keep your heart healthy:

Limit sitting. Recent research has found that sitting for too long can negatively impact your health despite being otherwise active. People who stay seated the most may experience an increase of nearly 150 percent in cardiovascular incidents and a 90-percent increase in mortality. Sitting for long periods may also increase the chances of developing blood clots.

To make sure you’re getting enough physical activity, try short bursts of movement throughout the day. If you spend time on your computer, consider a standing workstation, and park farther from the door on shopping trips.

Ban trans fats from your diet, and eat healthy fats instead. Trans fats raise LDL — known as “bad” — cholesterol levels and lower healthy HDL levels. Read labels to avoid trans fats, and be sure to include foods like olive oil, fatty fish and avocado to get a dose of the good fats.

Make sure you get sufficient sleep. Individuals who don’t sleep enough may be at increased risk for heart disease, and those who sleep under six hours nightly may have double the risk of a heart attack or stroke as people who sleep through the night. Most people need seven to eight hours a night to stay healthy.

By incorporating a little more activity, cutting out trans fats and getting more rest, you can make American Heart Month the beginning of your new commitment to heart health.