This February may be synonymous with Valentine’s Day and the Winter Olympic Games but did you know February also happens to be American Heart Month?

It was President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963 who first declared February to be recognized as American Heath Month. During this time, more than half of all deaths in the U.S. were attributed to cardiovascular disease. Although we’ve come a long way in terms of understanding how to prevent the disease, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide. In the U.S., hypertension (aka high blood pressure) still afflicts roughly one-third of our population. With climbing rates of obesity and the easy accessibility to fast foods, this is still very much a problem affecting many people.

Did You Know…

Your heart is an incredible muscle. Here are some things about your heart you may not know:

  • Your heart is about the size of two average-sized hands, clasped together.
  • A valve in your heart is about the same size as an American half-dollar.
  • Your heart beats an astounding 100,000 times a day.
  • The sound of your heart beating is created by the opening and closing of valve leaflets.
  • Every minute of every day, your heart pumps 1-1/2 gallons of blood through your body.
  • Your heart’s right and left sides work in coordination with one another, with the right side pumping blood into your lungs, and the left side pumping that blood back into the rest of your body.
  • Your heart sends blood to every cell in your body with the exception of your corneas.

Treat Your Heart Right

You only get one heart so you need to treat it right. Here are some recommendations from the American Heart Association outlining what you need to do to protect the health of the most important organ in your body:

Start eating healthy foods. Start by choosing foods that are low in trans fats, saturated fat, and sodium. Next, increase your daily intake of fruits and vegetables, aiming for 5 servings a day. Try replacing red meat with fish of the oily varieties like salmon a few times a week, if you’re a meat eater. When you do eat meat, choose the leanest cuts you can find. Incorporate more whole grains, nuts and seeds which will help raise your fiber intake, and provide essential nutrients like protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. Reduce your portion sizes, too, to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Resolve to be more active. Work towards a goal of exercising at least 150 minutes each week by making aerobic exercise part of your routine. This can be achievable by breaking up your weekly target into smaller goals such as daily brisk walks or jogs, or riding your bike to work instead of taking a car.

Learn the warning signs of a heart attack. Knowing the danger signs can save a life, whether it’s your own, a loved one, or even a strangers. Signs to watch for include nausea, shortness of breath, breaking out in a “cold sweat”, tightness or pressure in your chest area, arms or even in the neck and jaw, and more.

Make 2018 the year you take charge of your heart health by adopting the healthy habits outlined above. You might also consider learning CPR so that you’ll be in a position to help someone else stay alive in the event of a heart attack until medical help arrives.

And when February 3rd rolls around, be sure to wear red to show your support for heart health and to help raise awareness among your friends, family and co-workers.