In 1964, February was proclaimed American Heart Month.Since then, many have worked tirelessly to promote awareness and avoidance of common but serious heart issues.

What are these life-threatening issues? How much do you know about them? Lastly, how can you make life choices that will benefit your heart instead of damaging it?

The Deadliest Disease

Heart diseasestill reigns as the number one cause of death in the US, claiming 360,000 victims a year. This statistic includes deaths from coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Interestingly enough, stroke itself is the fifth leading cause of death in the US. It claims 133,000 lives per year. That works out to about one person every 4 minutes.

Are you starting to see the magnitude of this problem? Think of the thousands of families that suffer the loss of loved ones due to poor heart health. It’s a sad situation that’s made even worse by the fact that, oftentimes, heart disease is preventable.

The Power of Choice

All too often, people forget that the choices they make each day have an impact on their health. Unfortunately, many get stuck in a rut of making poor choices. Their hearts suffer as a result.

Consider a few important ways you can keep your heart healthy. Why not examine your lifestyle choices as you read?

Stay Active

No matter your age group, it’s important to incorporate physical activity into your daily life. Just 30 to 60 minutes a day can help to maintain your heart health. Exercise will strengthen your heart, lower blood pressure and help to maintain a healthy weight. It can also reduce stress, which is known to increase the risk of heart disease. How active are you?

Eat a Nutritious Diet

Your diet should be full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seed, (oily) fish, and lean meats. You should avoid consuming foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and sugar. Too much sodium can increase blood pressure. This creates excess fluid in the body and putting added strain on the heart muscle.

Too much fat can raise bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol levels. The same goes for sugar, which can turn into fat. When things are out of balance this way, heart disease and other serious problems are more likely to develop. How do your dietary habits stack up to the do’s and don’ts mentioned above? Do you see room for improvement?

Steer Clear of Smoke

If you smoke, quit right away. Additionally, do your best to avoid long-term exposure to secondhand smoke. It can be just as deadly in the long run. If a close friend or family member is a smoker, do your best to encourage and help them to quit. Not only will you be doing yourself a favor, but you’ll be looking out for their health as well.

Don’t Be Part of the Statistic

Each one of us needs to work hard to promote our heart health. Yet, you should be especially diligent about making positive choices if someone in your family has had cardiovascular disease.

Too, you should do everything in your power to minimize worry and anxiety. The less stress you have, the healthier your heart has the potential to be.

There are many risk factors for heart disease, whether inherited or as a result of your choices. The silver lining is that there are also plenty of things you can do to counteract risk-boosters. If you do them, you can avoid becoming part of the sad statistics on cardiovascular disease.