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Learn the truth about your heart to celebrate Heart Health Month

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American men and women. The disease cuts a wide swath across every ethnicity and geographic region in the nation.

Today, as we begin our observance of American Heart Month, now is a good time to learn the symptoms and risk factors for this deadly, but highly preventable disease.

If you have a heart, you are at risk for heart disease

Behaviors that reduce heart disease risk involve a lot of common sense. No one is immune to the ravages of heart disease, but can avoid or reduce risk with a healthy lifestyle that includes eating nutritious foods in healthy quantities, participating in regular exercise, and not smoking cigarettes.

Control what you can

It is also important to know your family history for a complete and accurate profile of your risk factors. Some factors can not be controlled such as your gender, your race, and your age. However, many factors are in your control such as what you eat, whether you smoke, whether you exercise, and how you manage your stress. There is much you can do to minimize family history and other irreversible factors. No one is a helpless victim of their biological inheritance. This cannot be said too much: reduce your risk for premature death from heart disease by not smoking, moderate alcohol use, eating well, and staying fit.

Do not ignore the truth

Most of us are at risk, but ignore the truth about the effects our lifestyle has on our heart. It is imperative to see your doctor to assess and monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and stress levels.

The Department of Health and Human Services has three programs to enhance the prevention of heart disease: Million Hearts, Healthy People 2020 and The Heart Truth, the focus of this article.

Thanks to Heart Truth's Red Dress initiative, women are becoming increasingly aware of their unique and preventable risk for heart disease because of the Heart Truth program

Especially for Women

Heart Truth focuses on educating women about their risks for heart disease, risks which are significant. Too few women realize how grave their risk for heart disease really is.

This program targets women ages 40 to 60, the time when a woman's risk for heart disease increases. But Heart Truth's messages are also important for younger women, since heart disease develops gradually and can start at a young age, even in the childhood and teenage years.

It's never too early---or too late---to take action to prevent and control the risk factors for heart disease. Even if you have heart disease, you can improve your heart health and quality of life.

Heart disease disproportionately affects women of color. American women of African and Hispanic descent, in particular, have higher rates of the major risk factors for heart disease, which include the following:

  1. obesity
  2. physical inactivity
  3. high blood pressure, and
  4. diabetes.

The Heart Truth strives eliminate health inequities evident in this demographic by placing an emphasis on reaching African American and Hispanic women with messages make them aware of of their inordinate risks for early death from heart disease.

As we celebrate Heart Health Month, please find out what you can do to reduce the risk of heart disease for you and your family.

Valentine's Day is widely celebrated this month across many cultures. Let's celebrate by being sure our hearts are healthy enough to stay here for those we love or to find love. If you don't know your cholesterol level, find out. If you don't know your blood pressure, find out. If you don't know your family history of heart disease, find out. If you know these levels and they put you at risk, find a health care practitioner right away, even if you lack insurance, to take steps to get healthy.

Do not delay. Your heart will not wait. Help is available. Reach out before it's too late.

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