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Editorial: A heart healthy month

Mother Nature may have wrecked some folks' plans for Valentine's Day, but the heart remains an important symbol to remember as February is also American Heart Month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Cardiovascular disease - including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure - is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. It is a leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities. CVD costs the United States over $300 billion each year, including the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity."

Different people have different risk factors when it comes to heart disease. Men are more than twice as likely to die from preventable cardiovascular disease, the CDC notes. Additionally, the CDC says, "Race and ethnicity also affect your risk. Nearly 44 percent of African American men and 48 percent of African American women have some form of CVD."

Diet, physical activity, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are things that you can control to reduce your risk of heart disease. And having a plan for prevention can ultimately lead you to better heart health.

Among the CDC's recommendations: Monitor your blood pressure, get your cholesterol checked, eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, limit alcohol use and don't smoke.

Just as important, the CDC says, is that if you are on medication for a health problem, make sure that you are taking it. "If you're taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or another condition, follow the instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don't understand something. If you have side effects, talk with your health-care team about your options," the CDC says.

Knowing your risk for heart disease, regular checkups, and taking steps to improve your overall health are all things that you can do to help keep your heart healthy.

Not only will you enjoy a happier, healthier life, but your Valentine's Day significant other will appreciate being able to have you around longer as well.

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