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February Heart Month –

Know the Risks to Stay Healthy

Liza Mendelson

February is American Heart Month, a time when all people can focus on their cardiovascular health. The Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention is shining a light on hypertension (high blood pressure), a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. 

Let us share some key risks and tools to stay heart healthy!


Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Know y our risk and protect your heart.

Cardiovascular disease can take many forms: high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, stroke, or arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat). Several health conditions, your lifestyle, and your age and family history can increase your risk for heart disease. These are called risk factors. About half of all Americans (47%) have at least 1 of 3 key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.


The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop heart disease. Some risk factors can be changed, treated, or modified, and some cannot. But by controlling as many risk factors as possible through lifestyle changes, medicines, or both, you can reduce your risk of heart disease.


Major Risk Factors include:

  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) – This increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. A normal reading for a healthy adult who is resting should be 120/80.
  • High Blood Cholesterol It’s a fat-like substance carried in your blood, is found in all of your body’s cells. Too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad cholesterol”) in the blood causes plaque to form on artery walls
  • Diabetes – - Heart problems are the leading cause of death among people with diabetes, especially in the case of adult-onset or Type 2 diabetes (also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes). 
  • Obesity and OverweightExtra weight can lead to increased high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes, all major  risk factors for heart disease.
  • SmokingMost people know that cigarette and tobacco smoking increases your risk of lung cancer, but few realize that it also greatly increases the risk of heart disease and peripheral vascular disease (disease in the vessels that supply blood to the arms and legs). 
  • Physical Inactivity - People who are not active have a greater risk of heart attack than do people who exercise regularly. Exercise burns calories to help maintain a healthier life-style.
  • GenderOverall, men have a higher risk of heart attack than women. Cardiovascular diseases affect more women than men and heart attacks are generally more severe in women than in men.
  • Heredity - Heart disease tends to run in families. Risk factors (including high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity) may also be passed from one generation to another.
  • AgeOlder age is a risk factor for heart disease. In fact, about 4 of every 5 deaths due to heart disease occur in people older than 65. 
  • Plus others Stress, hormones, birth control pills, and alcohol.


It is never too late to start changing your lifestyle towards a healthier heart. Here are a few practical steps to follow:

  • Eat a heart healthy diet – A diet that consists of a combination of different foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Best to cut down on salty meats such as ham, bacon, sausage, hotdog, as well as salty food such as dried fish.
  • If overweight, lose weight - Overweight and obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 and above. It’s all about planning and sticking to it, creating a food diary to keep track, to reduce some extra calories per day.
  • Increase regular physical activity to at least 2.5 hours per week - Physical activity contributes to improved blood pressure, improved levels of cholesterol and other blood lipids, and weight control. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults are recommended to perform at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (e.g. brisk walking, climbing stairs, dancing, gardening or doing household chores which can result in mild increase of heart rate) spread throughout the week.
  • Don’t use tobacco - Use of tobacco and exposure to second-hand smoke are harmful to your heart. Quitting tobacco use is the biggest gift of health you can give your heart. After a year of quitting, the risk of heart disease is about half that of a smoker. Fifteen years after quitting, the risk of heart disease is the same as that of a non-smoker.
  • Avoid use of alcohol - Alcohol consumption has been linked to more than 200 disease and injury conditions, including cardiovascular diseases. While most Filipinos report their alcohol drinking as occasionally, binge drinking is common in the country. There is no safe level for drinking alcohol, so it is better to avoid drinking alcohol altogether to protect your heart.
  • Have your blood pressure and blood sugar checked regularly - An important way to maintain a healthy heart is for your blood pressure and blood sugar to be checked regularly by a health worker. Some people do not exhibit symptoms even if they already have high blood pressure – and it can hurt your heart.



Take Away

For most of us, preventing heart disease depends largely on our lifestyle, which means there’s much that's in our power to improve our odds of living long and well. Enjoy life but on a balance scale to maintain a heart health outcome. And involve your loved ones in your journey to a healthier heart.



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