On January 31st, as every President of the United States has annually since 1964, President Barack Obama proclaimed February 2013 American Heart Month.
In the proclamation, Obama addressed ways to reduce the risk of heart disease—the number one cause of death among Americans, “During American Heart Month, we make a commitment--for ourselves and our families—to staying healthy and keeping our hearts strong.
“Although genetic factors likely play a role in cardiovascular disease, there are also several controllable risk factors, including: blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, poor diet, obesity, tobacco use, and physical inactivity. Any one of them can lead to heart disease, and additional factors magnify the risk. That is why a heart-healthy lifestyle is so important. Certain improvements to daily routines—like eating healthy, not smoking, limiting alcohol use, and getting routine health screenings—can lower several of these risk factors and set the stage for a long and healthy life.”
He also spoke to First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts at preventing heart disease with her “Let’s Move!” initiative, “which encourages young people and families to eat heathy and get active.”
From broken heart syndrome to heart attacks and diseases, raising awareness about this encompassing cardiovascular health crisis is the key to saving and prolonging lives--including your own. Heart disease is the top killer of both sexes in the US; however, women die from heart attacks more often than do men: over half a million female lives are lost to cardiovascular disease every year. That’s nearly ten times more than those lost to breast cancer.
But as President Obama proclaimed, even with genetic precursors, there are steps we can take to keep up a healthy heart beat and decrease the likelihood of cardiovascular complications.
Relax. Stress really is a killer and if you’re using the adage, “[so and so] makes my blood pressure rise,” it’s probably true. If you have someone at work, home or wherever who really gets under your skin, keep a pack of chamomile (which has relaxing properties) or another decaf tea handy. Give yourself a tea break to breathe and regain perspective instead of letting your blood pressure rise.
Eating healthily prepared, well balanced meals is a no-brainer for heart health, but dieting can be so... Set realistic goals for yourself, like including one extra serving of veggies a day to replace one sugary/salty/fried/fatty treat. You can always ramp it up as you go along. Chances are, you’ll be feeling results before you know it--and will be craving more!
Add a little bounce to your step. Literally. And work those smile muscles while you’re at it. Doing anything is easier with a smile on your face and engaging in some extra physical activity is no different. Take the stairs instead of the elevator while whistling a favorite tune. Enjoy a brisk walk around a few blocks of your home or work neighborhood where you haven’t spent much time looking around; take in the new trees and colorful houses or buildings, you’ll already be covering new ground!
Jan's Story by Barry Petersen, the multiple Emmy-award winning CBS News correspondent, is the heart-wrenching account of his wife Jan's Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease. Read more.
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