February Is American Heart Month!

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Celebrate American Heart Month: Join the #OurHearts Movement

February is American Heart Month!

How do you take care of your heart? As you know, February is American heart month, a time of the year to bring awareness to heart disease and remind us of the importance of heart health. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and managing risk factors can reduce a person’s chance of developing heart disease.

Many people know the signs of heart disease like chest pain or discomfort, pain in the neck or jaw, and pain in the upper abdomen or back. However, women could also experience nausea, vomiting, or fatigue as symptoms of heart disease. There are three main risk factors that increase your chances of developing heart disease and they are; high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. At least half of all Americans have at least one of these three risk factors.

Let’s celebrate American Hearth Month by thinking of ways you can add more heart-healthy habits into your routine. Habits that can help to lower your risk for heart disease include:

Know your blood pressure numbers

>>Check out NHLBI’s Healthy Blood Pressure for Healthy Hearts: Tracking Your Numbers worksheet .

Get tested for diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes raises your risk for heart disease

Get enough sleep!

>>When you sleep, your blood pressure goes down. Getting your full seven hours will reduce your risk of heart disease by balancing your blood pressure and providing your body the necessary rest and recovery it needs. There are many ways to get better sleep, but I challenge you to try and stick with a regular bedtime and wake-up time for this month and see if it makes a difference in your overall wellbeing.

Quit smoking!

Manage stress by finding ways to cope with stress that work for you

>>Although activity is good for the heart, too much stress and endurance can hinder its function. According to the CDC, several mental health disorders like anxiety disorder can have a direct correlation to illness and heart disease. Remember to take some time to relax, sit down and read a book, or meditate outside.

Have your triglycerides and cholesterol checked

 Limit your alcohol to just one drink per day

Be more physically active

  • Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease. It can also increase the chances of having other medical conditions that are risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Regular physical activity can lower your risk for heart disease.

>Invite family, friends, colleagues, or members of your community to join you in your efforts to be more physically active:

  • Ask a colleague to walk “with you” on a regular basis, put the date on both your calendars, and text or call to make sure you both get out for a walk.
  • Get a friend or family member to sign up for the same online exercise class, such as a dance class. Make it a regular date!
  • Grab your kids, put on music, and do jumping jacks, skip rope, or dance in your living room or yard.

How much is enough? Aim for at least 2 hours of physical activity each week—that’s just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition, do muscle strengthening exercises 2 days a week. Can’t carve out a lot of time in your day? Don’t chuck your goal, chunk it! Try 10 or 15 minutes a few times a day. NHLBI’s Move More fact sheet has ideas to get and keep you moving.

Make healthy food choices that support heart health, like choosing healthy fats and watching sodium intake

>> A great option if you are looking for a little more structure to eating healthy is following the Mediterranean diet. This diet emphasizes healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as beans, nuts, and seeds. It has been shown to help manage blood pressure, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease as much as 30-60%. This diet is more plant based which can lead to lower cholesterol levels. Visit the Pitt County Extension website for more information and to explore this diet through a program called Med instead of Meds. You can visit us at pitt.ces.ncsu.edu or call us at 252-902-1700 for more information.

Track Your Heart Health Stats, Together

Keeping a log of your blood pressure, weight goals, physical activity, and if you have diabetes, your blood sugars, will help you stay on a heart-healthy track. Ask friends or family to join you in the effort.

Visit NLHBI #OurHearts  for inspiration on what others around the country are doing together for their heart health. Then join the #OurHearts movement and let NHLBI know what you’re doing to have a healthy heart. Tag #OurHearts to share how you and your family and friends are being heart healthy.


“How the Heart Works” – Michigan Medicine – The University of Michigan Health

“Heart Disease and Mental Health Disorders” – Heart Disease – Centers of Disease Control and Prevention