Who doesn't love February? After all, this oddly spelled month is synonymous with romance, flowers, butterflies in the stomach - and a groundhog for some reason. I would venture to guess that more couples get engaged or married in February than any other time of year. And although I can't back that up with real statistics, we all know that February and our hearts are forever linked.
In fact February, the month of love, is also National Heart Month and as such is dedicated to raising
awareness about heart disease and prevention.
According to the American Heart Association, heart
disease claims more than 17 million lives annually
making it the number one cause of death not only
in America but in the world. Currently, 85.6 million
Americans are battling cardiovascular disease in
some form and more than 370,000 will die this
year as a result.
Heart disease (cardiovascular disease) is conglomeration of ailments and conditions affecting the heart and vascular system and includes coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. While it is true that some individuals are predisposed to heart disease due to genetics or congenital abnormalities of the heart, most heart disease can be attributed to deleterious behaviors like smoking or having a sedentary lifestyle.
Smoking increases blood pressure and is a major risk factor for heart disease. In fact, smokers have a significantly higher risk of heart attack versus non-smokers. Over time, smoking can compromise the lining of the arteries, which can allow for plaque to accumulate along your artery walls. When blood cannot reach your heart, chest pain and heart attack can result.
Another contributing factor to heart disease can be a diet high in saturated fats and salt. This can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease by way of raising blood pressure and increasing triglycerides and cholesterol levels. Instead of fast or artificial food, be sure to incorporate fish, lean meats, vegetables, fruit and whole grains into your meals. Find more on heart healthy nutrition here.
Finally, don’t only rely on your significant other to keep your heart pumping this February. Exercise is a vital component of good heart health. Building beneficial habits like engaging in thirty minutes of exercise a day, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking at the back of the lot instead of by the entrance to the grocery store can all go a long way toward better cardiovascular health.
But before you throw your hands in the air, read this: don’t forget to occasionally indulge in dark chocolate which helps to lower blood pressure and alleviate stress. So, you can get your chocolate-fix this Valentine’s Day.
February is the month of love. Love your wife or husband, love those around you and most of all, love your heart.
Matt Baker, PharmD
Brookshire Brothers Pharmacy – Lufkin, TX