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ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – In February we not only observe Valentine’s Day, but also National Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. In fact, nearly 837,550 people die each year from heart disease and 133,000 from strokes.

There are risk factors that affect heart disease such as your family history, ethnic or racial background, and age that you cannot control. However, you can control a high fat or salt diet, physical inactivity, and tobacco and alcohol use. These high risk factors can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Heart Healthy Tips

Follow these tips to help prevent heart disease.

  • Know your numbers: weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and body mass index.
  • Eat food from all food groups. Food groups include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, fish, chicken, lean beef and pork, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free milk products. Eating a variety of foods provides your body with important nutrients.
  • Limit the amount of fat, salt, sugar, and refined grains like white bread and rice that you eat.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol to 8 ounces a day, or 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Watch your food portion sizes.
  • Read the labels on food products.
  • Exercise regularly. Adults should exercise for 150 minutes (30 minutes a day) per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity.  Walking, jogging, or biking are beneficial for the heart. Children should exercise at least 60 minutes a day, including some form of aerobic activity at least 3 times a week.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Manage other health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
  • Take medications daily.
  • Reduce stress.

Eating healthy, being physically active, and visiting your physician regularly are important in preventing heart disease.

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