Be a Hero to your Heart this Valentine's Day: February is American Heart Health Month
By Dr. Sandra B. Nichols, chief medical officer of the northeast region, UnitedHealthcare Clinical Services
Many of us celebrate Valentine’s Day by buying flowers, sending heart-shaped cards or having dinner with someone special. This year, how about also remembering to take care of your own heart? Your loved ones will be glad you did.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States, causing one in three deaths each year. Some heart disease risk factors such as family history and aging may be out of your hands, but there are other ways to lower your risk and help prevent heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
This February, during American Heart Month, UnitedHealthcare is offering tips to help you and your loved ones get started on a path toward better heart health.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk for heart disease, along with a host of other health issues. If you smoke, see your health care provider and take advantage of support groups and your family and friends to help you stop smoking.
- Exercise regularly. Small adjustments to your level of physical activity – walking or biking to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, exercising 30 minutes a day – can reduce your risk.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and whole grains. Cut down on foods high in cholesterol and sodium, and limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Watch the scale. Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for heart disease and can lead to other health issues such as diabetes. Losing weight can seem overwhelming, but setting realistic goals can help. Even a modest amount of weight loss – just 5 percent of your total body weight – has important health benefits.
- Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol. Cholesterol is actually important to overall health, but too much of it – especially the “bad” kind (LDL cholesterol) – is a major risk for heart disease, so be sure to have regular cholesterol screenings.
In addition to following these five tips, it is important to check with your doctor to find out your personal risk for heart disease and what actions are best for you.
To learn more about heart health, visit the American Heart Association (www.heart.org). Another helpful resource is UnitedHealthcare’s Source4Women website,www.Source4Women.com, featuring online seminars, heart health quizzes and tips, healthy recipes, and a preventive-care tool (www.uhcpreventivecare.com) offering age- and gender-specific preventive-care recommendations that enable people to better manage their health.
Also, UnitedHealthcare and Woman’s Day are encouraging Americans to visit www.WomansDay.com/BeaHero and take a pledge to be a Heart Hero. By taking the online pledge, you will learn more about heart disease, get tips to help you live a heart-healthy lifestyle, and be automatically entered for a chance to win prizes. The pledge begins Feb. 7 and continues through November.