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Be more conscious of your heart health

American Heart Month, marked each February, is a good time to start living a healthier lifestyle.

As Ohio Valley residents, we, unfortunately, are plagued with leading many areas of the country in illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

The grim fact is heart disease is still the No. 1 cause of death in America. Statistics still show that more than 715,000 people have heart attacks every year, and heart disease kills more than 600,000 Americans each year. And that’s despite the many steps taken through research and education to raise awareness.

Factor in, too, that cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, cost the United States more than $3 billion each year. Health care services, medications and lost productivity are tremendously costly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The good news in all of this is it’s really not too late to adopt a more healthy diet and lifestyle.

Moderation in food consumption is one key to becoming healthier. Cutting some calories and just eating more fruits and vegetables, as well as whole-grain foods, can go a long way in helping someone feel better.

It’s important to remember, too, that fad diets and radical changes are not the best route for someone wanting to improve his or her health. Staying the course with a long-term heart-healthy food regimen is your best bet.

Also important for a healthy heart is taking part in some physical activity. Even walking 20 to 30 minutes each day brings many benefits and gets your heart pumping. Remember that increased physical activity and eating healthier may help bring blood pressure and blood sugar readings down as well as improve mental well-being.

We should remember, too, that smoking is a major risk for heart disease and strokes, according to the American Heart Association. Smoking can block the blood flow and oxygen to the brain, and even secondhand smoking is dangerous and increases a person’s risk for a heart attack, AHA officials have said.

It’s time to be more conscious of your heart health. Start today with small steps and make it last throughout the year.

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