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Bless Your Heart

Bless your heart. It’s one of those sayings that only a Southerner can truly understand. But during February, which exudes Valentine’s Day, hearts, Cupid, and love, it’s a reminder to take care of your own heart…because your heart doesn’t belong to just you.

Did you know that your heart is your hardest working muscle? It beats 100,000 times a day, and almost one million times a week. February is American Heart Month, a time when all people can focus on their cardiovascular health, because keeping your heart healthy is central to overall good health. You are never too old or too young to begin taking good care of your heart. Taking small steps to follow a healthy lifestyle at any age can help prevent heart disease and lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Conditions that lead to heart disease may begin early in life, but there are many steps you can take to protect your heart health. Start by knowing your risk factors. Some, like family history or being over the age of 45, are beyond your control, but there are risk factors that you can do something about.

“Although some heart disease factors like family history can’t be controlled, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make to improve your heart health,” said Forrest Health cardiologist, C. Murphy Hinson, DO.

Nearly half of all Americans have at least one of these three risk factors:

High blood pressure High blood cholesterol Smoking

Other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:

Diabetes Overweight and obesity Unhealthy diet Physical inactivity Excessive alcohol use

In order to have a healthy heart, you need to start with healthy habits.

A healthy weight and diet are ways to avoid heart disease. Your heart and overall health will benefit if you follow these nutritional guidelines:

Include a variety of fruits and vegetables Eat fiber-rich whole grains Choose low-fat dairy products Eat lean meats and at least two servings per week of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, trout, herring) Limit sodium to less than 1,500 mg a day Watch fat and sugar intake Only drink alcohol in moderation Watch portion sizes Drink plenty of water

Get Moving

A regular exercise program helps to decrease your resting heart rate and boost good cholesterol. “Try to exercise about

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