Johnston: A good time to check your heart health

As many of you know, February is Heart Health Month, so what a great time for some reminders on how to keep your heart healthy.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.

More people die from heart disease than cancer and car wrecks combined.

In addition to those deaths, around 35 percent of the population is living with some form of heart disease.

So what is heart disease?

Heart disease or cardiovascular disease refer to all conditions of the heart and blood vessels.

Examples of heart disease include heart attacks, strokes, atherosclerosis and heart failure.

The most common type of heart disease in the US is coronary artery disease, which affects blood flow to the hear and can cause a heart attack.

You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease.

Controlling and preventing risk factors is also essential for people who already have heart disease.

When you choose healthy behaviors, you lower your heart disease risk while also preventing other serious chronic conditions like diabetes and some kinds of cancer.

Here are some tips for reducing your risk of heart disease:

— Know your risks and talk to your doctor about your family health history.

— Watch your weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease.

— Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoking significantly increases your risk for heart disease.

— Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. For most adults, the ideal number for blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg.

To know your cholesterol, have your cholesterol checked by your doctor and talk with him or her about how your cholesterol affects your overall risk of heart disease.

— If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Men should have no more than two drinks per day and women only one.

— Get active. Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity — like a brisk walk — each week, or about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

— Eat well. Choose healthy options including fruits and vegetables. Limit salt, saturated fat, and added sugar.

While you cannot change factors like age and family history, even small changes to your diet and lifestyle can improve your heart health and lower your risk by as much as 80 percent.

This February, remind your family and friends to focus on their hearts and take care of their health.

For more resources on how to reduce your risk of heart disease, contact the Clark County Extension Office at 859-744-4682.

Shonda Johnston is the Clark County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 859-744-4682 or by email at shonda.johnston@uky.edu.