american heart month

Protect Your Heart

By Dr. Scott Breidbart, Chief Clinical Officer, EmblemHealth

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. While people of all backgrounds can develop heart disease, African Americans are at a much higher risk, as more than 40 percent of African-American men and women have some form of cardiovascular disease.

As February is both American Heart Month and Black History Month, I’d like to raise awareness to a very serious, yet preventable health issue.

Approximately half of all Americans have at least one major risk factor — high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, or tobacco use. We should all also know about other important risk factors: diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.

Small, daily changes will eventually lead to a long-term lifestyle change, which can greatly reduce one’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

Eat Healthy. A healthful diet, rich with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can help lower high cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Stay Fit. Regular exercise also positively affects overall cardiovascular health. Exercising 30 minutes a day, five days a week can help prevent heart disease.

Avoid Smoking. Smoking damages the heart and blood vessels and causes one of every three deaths from cardiovascular disease. Secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by more than 20 percent.

Know Your History. If your relatives had heart disease, it is all the more important that you make sure you check your blood pressure and cholesterol and make sure you lead a healthful lifestyle.