As we are halfway through National Heart Month, February, we hope you have considered what you can do to become Heart-Healthy, if you haven’t already started to do so.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death of both men and women in the United States.  Regardless of your age or gender, now is the time to think about the “rest of your life”.   The America Heart Association recommends that you know your cholesterol and triglyceride numbers as well as you know your shoe size or 401(k) balance.  It’s wise to watch your calorie intake, and try to stay with the six food groups recommended by the USDA and American Heart Association.

The best Valentine gift that I’ve ever received was having my husband still here with me.  One day last May, he began having chest pains and shortness of breath.  A trip to the emergency room revealed that his cardiac enzyme levels were extremely high.  An ambulance journey to a larger hospital and cardiac cath lab indicated that he had 95%, 90%, 60% and 40% blockage in arteries to his heart.  He had successful open-heart surgery with four bypasses.  After weeks of cardiac rehab therapy, he is back on the golf course, and ready to start a new garden this spring!  It was very lucky that he had this warning, which averted a possible heart attack and/or heart damage.

Cardiovascular disease of the heart and blood vessels develops over time (beginning in childhood), and occurs when arteries develop atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque inside them.  This buildup reduces blood flow in arteries.  When plaque becomes fragile and ruptures, blood clots can form.  If arteries to the heart or brain are blocked, heart attack or stroke can be the result.

Controlling cholesterol and triglyceride levels can save lives.  By choosing healthier diets and developing a regular exercise routine, you can be on the road to better heart health.  Know your family history, reduce stress in your work/home, if you smoke-STOP, don’t consume too much alcohol, and have your blood pressure checked regularly.  If you are overweight, try to find a healthy way to lose weight.  Regular checkups are the key to maintaining good health.

If you or someone you are with complains of chest discomfort, squeezing or tightness in the chest, aching in the back, neck, jaw, stomach, call 911.  Other signs of heart problems are being sweaty, clammy, or chalky.  Many people have been brought into emergency rooms thinking they had a case of indigestion, later to discover they are having a heart attack.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

There are many resources that can help you with planning proper nutrition, exercise, and all the necessary information to help your heart health.  Now is the time to take action by making lifestyle changes if necessary.  It will be worth it in the long run.  Remember to “Love your heart!”