February is Heart Disease Awareness Month. Did you know heart disease can happen at any age? According to the CDC, half of ALL Americans have one of the top 3 risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high Cholesterol or smoking. Whether you’re 25 or 75, there are steps you can take to protect your heart and lower the risk factors of developing heart disease.

Heart Disease Risk Factors – it Could Happen to You:

More and more young people are at risk for developing heart disease due to factors like unhealthy eating, inactivity, smoking or other risky behaviors. Here are some of the top troublemakers when it comes to heart disease:

  1. Smoking. Smoking increases plaque in blood vessels, which can narrow arteries carrying blood to the heart. Chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause the blood to thicken and form clots inside veins and arteries. (CDC). Here in the US, millions of people smoke cigarettes every day, increasing their risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular complications.
  2. High Cholesterol: When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, your arteries narrow and blood flow to the heart muscle can be blocked or slowed down. Having diabetes and obesity, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels. (CDC)
  3. High Blood Pressure: Having uncontrolled blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for developing heart disease. The strain and damage from high blood pressure causes arteries to narrow from a build up of fat and other substances (plaque). As the arteries become hardened, blood clots are more likely to form. Millions of Americans have high blood pressure, including many in their 30s and 40s. (CDC and Heart.org).
  4. Other conditions that contribute to heart disease include: inactivity, obesity, diabetes and unhealthy eating

What can YOU do to Help Prevent Heart Disease?

While heart disease is unfortunately very common, it’s not too late to take control of your health and wellbeing. Here are some tips to help you keep your heart healthy and happy:

  1. Be active! Find a way to build exercise into your daily routine. Aim to add at least 150 minutes of activity each week, even if you break it down into very small chunks. A 10 minutes walk around the block each morning and night, or a few laps at the pool will go a long way to helping your heart!
  2. Do NOT smoke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the US. There are so many resources to help you quit right here in Madison. Find a way to kick the habit and work your way back to heart health.
  3. Regular check-ups. Make sure you’re keeping tabs on your health with regular visits to your doctor. Find out your blood pressure and cholesterol and how you can manage them if they are too high.
  4. Healthy eating. We all know fruits and veggies should be a staple of each meal. Try to add in healthy options and stay away from high salt, high trans fat, high saturated fat and of course, sugar.

For more information on heart disease and what you can do to help your heart, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/index.html or https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease