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ERI - Feb Heart Health_Website

February is Heart Health Month

Listen to your heart

When we think about February, it is often associated with hearts and love due to the celebration of Valentine’s Day on February 14th. The iconic symbol of February, the heart, is widely used to represent love and romance. In addition to the commercialized romantic symbolism of February, it is also American Heart Month…a month dedicated to raising awareness about heart health and cardiovascular disease. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is a leading cause of death for men and women in the United States with the most common form being coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is a major cause of heart attacks. A heart attack occurs when plaque builds up along the walls of the heart’s arteries, causing them to become narrow and limiting blood flow. 

There are multiple factors that can increase one’s risk of developing CAD. These include obesity, lack of exercise, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes. In addition, age, gender and a family history of heart disease also increase risk.

By discussing your history, risk factors and concerns with your doctor, you are taking the first step to being proactive in your own health!  Based on your risk factors, your doctor can further characterize your risk of CAD by ordering a Calcium Scoring Cardiac CT.  This screening tool can determine the presence and/or extent of plaque within your coronary arteries and provide a score to determine the likelihood of heart attack in your future.  The exam is approximately 10 minutes in length and painless.  Based on your screening, your doctor can help you improve or prevent further risk. 

As we enter a month of celebrating all things love and connections with others, it’s also an opportune time to reflect on our own heart health. Below are a few ways that you can incorporate heart healthy habits into your daily life. Make February a time to look inwardly on how you are taking care of your health and loving your heart! Remember, making small, sustainable changes to your lifestyle can have a significant long-term impact on your heart health.

  • Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet focused on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Limit saturated fats and include healthy fats such as those found in nuts, avocados and olive oil.
  • Exercise Regularly, focusing on moderate intensity aerobic exercises. Be sure to include strength training exercises at least twice a week.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight through diet and exercise. Being overweight or obese can contribute to heart problems.
  • Quit Smoking and try to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Limit Alcohol Intake 
  • Manage Stress by practicing stress-reducing techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing and spending time outside.
  • Get Quality Sleep, aiming for 7-9 hours of QUALITY sleep per night. Poor sleep contributes to obesity and high blood pressure which are risk factors for heart disease.
  • Stay Hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water each day.
  • Maintain Social Connections Having a supportive network of friends and family can have a positive impact on heart health.

Learn more about Calcium Scoring Cardiac CT and remember to ask your provider for a referral to Eastern Radiologists.