It's that time of year again: February is National Heart Health Month, and it's time to give some attention to your heart—both physical and emotional. Learn about ways to support your physical heart health through JHU partner CareFirst and your emotional heart through JHEAP's recorded workshops on love and ways to tackle loneliness.
The place to start this month is knowing two things: your risk factors for disease, and lifestyle changes you can make to support a healthy heart.
As you may know, heart disease is the No. 1 leading cause of death in the United States. What exactly is heart disease? The term refers to several types of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease, which affects blood flow to the heart. This is the most common form of heart disease, and for many, the first sign is a heart attack.
Heart disease risk factors
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Often referred to as the "silent killer," high blood pressure usually shows no symptoms, which is why it is important to get your blood pressure measured regularly.
High blood cholesterol is another risk factor of heart disease. Approximately two in five adults in the United States have high cholesterol (total blood cholesterol ≥ 200 mg/dL).
Did you know that those who smoke are two to four times more likely to get heart disease than nonsmokers? This is because smoking causes an instant rise in blood pressure and heart rate, and it reduces blood flow to the heart.
Additional risk factors include diabetes, being overweight/obese, poor diet, being physically inactive, and excessive alcohol use.
Click here to assess the factors that contribute to developing heart disease.
Heart-healthy lifestyle tips
Choosing heart-healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and limiting saturated fats and added sugars will help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Aim for a healthy weight. Be sure to talk with your health care provider about your body mass index, or BMI, and what it means for you.
Move more. Being physically active is one of the best ways to keep your heart and lungs healthy. Consider asking a colleague to walk with you on a regular basis during the workday, and keep both of you accountable by setting reminders to move. You can even work out together virtually through your free Burnalong benefit.