February is all about the state of your heart — emotionally (Valentine’s Day) and health-wise (American Heart Month). 

And it’s fitting because to truly enjoy one aspect of your heart, the whole thing has to be healthy. So, let’s talk about that. 

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US? Across genders and most racial and ethnic groups, nearly 700,000 people die from this disease each year. And in the winter, your heart is even more vulnerable. 

To raise awareness of the importance of a healthy heart, here’s what you need to know about year-round prevention. 

What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is a general term that describes any condition that affects the structure or function of your heart. And contrary to the popular belief, heart disease isn’t only one condition. It’s actually many conditions that have a range of root causes. 

For example, along with age and family history, here are common risk factors for developing heart disease:

Let’s check out some types of heart disease:

Heart disease symptoms depend on what type of disease you have, but these are some common symptoms across the conditions:

Protecting Your Heart in the Winter

Seasonal depression isn’t the only condition that increases during the winter — your risk of heart attack (and stroke!) does too. 

To minimize your risk, consider these cardiologist-recommended acts of self-care this winter:

Finally, don’t wait to ask for help. If you experience any symptoms of a heart condition, reach out for assistance ASAP.

Year-round Prevention for Heart Disease

Now that you have a better understanding of heart disease and how to protect yourself in the winter, let’s talk about prevention for the whole year.

1. Get moving

If you can exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week, great! It can be difficult to stick to a routine, but we can’t deny the benefits of regular exercise in lowering your risks of heart disease. 

Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Plus, it strengthens your heart, improves your circulation, and reduces your chances of developing other conditions that can strain your heart.

If you’re jumping back into exercises, don’t feel the pressure to go all-in too fast. Take your time, and slowly work your way up to your desired fitness goals. 

If you experience any unusual chest pain or shortness of breath that makes you concerned, seek help and guidance from a healthcare professional or seek emergency services.

Keep in mind that we all exercise differently. Plus, you don’t have to train like an Olympic athlete to maintain your health! You can simply take short walks, take the stairs over the elevator, pull some weeds, or even shovel your neighbor's walk. Even shorter bouts of physical activity offer heart benefits.

Here are some other daily activities to try: 

2. Don’t skip these key screenings

Lowering your risk for heart disease is all about managing risk factors, especially the big ones that can significantly damage your heart and blood vessels. Here are the heart-health screenings you can’t overlook: 

There’s only one way to know if you have these conditions and how to take action: Get screened. In the meantime, limit alcohol and smoking (they both raise your blood pressure and risk of heart disease!), and lead a healthy lifestyle that includes any recommendations from your doctor.

💡 Pro tip: Unmanaged stress can raise your blood pressure, and extreme levels can even trigger a heart attack. As you navigate your stresses, remember to cope with heart-healthy activities, like exercise, meditation, listening to music, or journaling. Anyone can do these anywhere. Plus, they’re free!

3. Eat a heart-healthy diet

Look, we’re not saying you can’t ever enjoy your favorite french fries or that perfectly cut steak, but it shouldn’t be a weekly splurge — that won’t make your heart happy.

Here’s what’ll protect your heart and improve blood pressure and cholesterol level, plus reduce type-2 diabetes risk:


Increase in Moderation

Care on!

Maureen Dube-Savage, MS, RD

Maureen is a Registered Dietitian with a masters in health education, specializing in holistic wellness through nutrition and cannabis.

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