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February in the United States is American Heart Month.

According to the US government’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, heart disease (also referred to as cardiovascular disease) is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. It is responsible for 1 in 4 deaths in American every year.

Heart disease encompasses a variety of cardiovascular conditions. The most common types of heart disease are: coronary artery disease, cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, congenital heart disease, peripheral artery disease, and stroke.

Know the risk factors

Certain lifestyle choices, heredity, and other medical conditions may put you at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Common risk factors are:
• Older age (45+ in men, 55+ and/or post-menopausal women)
• Obesity
• Being physically inactive
• Unhealthy diet
• High blood pressure (hypertension)
• High blood cholesterol
• Diabetes and prediabetes
• Smoking
• Having a family history of early heart disease
• Having a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy

How to care for your heart

Although it’s common and can be deadly, heart disease can often be prevented.

Healthy lifestyle choices: Eating a balanced diet of whole foods is good for the whole body, including the heart. Educate yourself about “heart-healthy” foods and learn to opt for spices to season food instead of excessive salt use. Regular exercise is also beneficial—especially activities like walking and running which exercise the cardiovascular system. Even a little physical activity is better than a sedentary lifestyle. Our bodies are designed to move!

Managing health conditions: Comprehensive preventative care is one step you can take to ensure your body is in good health. Any medical conditions you may have can be diagnosed and treated early when you commit to routine health check-ups with your physician. Controlling your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body weight—whether through lifestyle changes or medication—is one way you can manage health conditions that may trigger heart disease.