February is National Heart Health Awareness Month. Every year this awareness month aims to motivate Americans to adopt to healthy lifestyles to prevent heart disease. Focusing on heart health has never been more important, especially during the pandemic. Studies show that people with poor cardiovascular health are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. President Biden addresses heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States and is using #OurHearts to bring awareness to the ongoing battle.
Meeting personal healthy lifestyle goals is more successful when we come together with others. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is using the #OurHearts campaign as a way to bring awareness to self-care and healthy living. This month motivate yourself and others to make heart health a regular part of daily self-care.
Your heart is always working. It is the most important organ in your body because it provides blood and oxygen to all of your organs. Serious problems can develop in the arteries when it doesn’t get the proper care it needs. This can lead to plaque which can lead to heart attacks and blockage of blood flow in the arteries. Below are the conditions that can affect your heart health and habits that can manage or prevent them.
What is cholesterol?
Not all cholesterol is bad. Your body needs some to function. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body makes and gets from food. It allows your body to create vitamin D and hormones, such as estrogen for women and testosterone for men. It also helps with digestion.
High-density lipoprotein or HDL, often called good cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein or LDL, often called bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol leads to artery clogging plaque. Good cholesterol helps remove plaque. It helps protect you from heart disease. Having too much of the bad, or not enough of the good, can lead to heart disease.
There are no symptoms of high cholesterol. It is best to get it checked though a home kit or a blood test. Talk to your doctor about the best way to prep for a home test. The blood test will give you numbers that include your total cholesterol, your levels of good and bad cholesterol, and triglycerides, which is a fat.
You should have your levels checked every 4 to 6 years if you are over the age of 20. If you are at more risk for heart disease, then you might need to get it checked more.
Medication and lifestyle can help control cholesterol. Even if you don’t have high cholesterol, you can make changes to lower your risk of heart disease.
- Eat Healthy
- Quit smoking
- Avoid second hand smoke
High Blood Pressure
When you have high blood pressure, the force of blood against your walls of your arteries is high. With no treatment, high blood pressure can damage arteries, heart, kidneys, and other organs. If can lead to heart attacks, kidney failure, and strokes. It can cause memory loss, fluid in lungs, chest pain, and other conditions. There are no symptoms. The only to know if your blood pressure is fine is by a blood pressure test. While it is hard to tell if you have a high blood pressure without a test, if you have back pain and severe headaches or visual problems, call 911.
If one or both numbers from a blood pressure test are high, you could have high blood pressure. Systolic pressure is the top number and diastolic pressure is the bottom number. You should have your blood pressure checked every 2 years after age 20. Lifestyle changes can lower high blood pressure,
- Eat Healthy
- Get active
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Manage stress
- Avoid smoking and tobacco products
- Follow prescription medication instructions
- Eat less salt
- Use care with medications
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