February is American Heart Month, a great time to start on the path to better heart health and well-being, and to understand the risk factors that can contribute to heart problems.
According to the CDC, despite a decline in deaths tied to heart disease, it remains the leading cause of death among men and women with more than 877,500 Americans dying of heart disease, stroke, or other cardiovascular diseases every year.
Late last year, the America’s Health Rankings (AHR) report also highlighted a startling fact: heart disease is one of eight chronic conditions that has reached record highs since the report began tracking health and well-being in the United States. This alarming trend is putting younger people (ages 35-64) more at risk of heart disease.
Heart Disease Key Risk Factors:
• Diabetes or Prediabetes
• High Blood Pressure
During American Heart Month, everyone is encouraged to adopt healthier behaviors that can decrease the risk of serious health outcomes. Dr. Joel Caschette, UnitedHealthcare Chief Medical Officer, highlights the following lifestyle habits to improve heart health:
• Get Regular Physical Activity: Any physical activity is better than none. For adults, the American Heart Association recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, and at least two weight training sessions every week. A study of people ages 70 and older found even just walking an additional 500 steps per day, or an additional quarter mile of walking, was associated with a 14-percent lower risk of heart disease.
• Choose Healthy Foods and Drinks: Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean animal proteins, and fish. Limit sweetened drinks, added sugars, processed meat, sodium, and saturated fats. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount to one drink per day for women, and 2 drinks per day for men.
• Live Tobacco Free: Don’t smoke. Smoking is linked to about one-third of all deaths from heart disease. The good news is within one year of quitting, the risk of heart disease goes down by half. If you don’t think you can quit on your own, ask for help.
• Get Good Sleep: The recommended amount of sleep for most healthy adults is at least 7 hours each night. Lack of sleep is associated with health problems such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, all of which can raise your risk of heart disease.
• Know Your Heart Disease and Stroke Risk: Knowing your risk level is key to protecting your heart and staying healthy. Monitor your cholesterol as recommended by your health care provider, check your blood pressure on a regular basis, and manage your blood sugar levels if you have pre-diabetes or diabetes. You can also ask your health care provider about other screening tests for heart disease they recommend.
For more helpful health and wellness information, visit UHCMedicareNewsroom.com.