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Keep Your Heart Healthy

February is Heart Month and serves as a great reminder that heart health should be a priority for everyone. Here are some ways to keep your heart healthy.

1. Get your cholesterol checked. Levels of 160 or higher mg/dL of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) are considered unhealthy and put you at risk of having a heart attack. If you have high cholesterol, take steps to control it with doctor-recommended lifestyle adjustments or medications.

2. Another condition that affects heart health is high blood pressure. It’s estimated that one in two adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure, but only one in five controls it. Any reading over 130/80 mmHg is evidence that the person is at increased risk of stroke or heart disease. Again, your doctor can recommend changes to your diet or lifestyle and decide if and what blood pressure medications are required.

4. Quit smoking. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, smoking cigarettes causes damage to the heart and blood vessels. Smoking also causes other serious health issues besides hurting your heart, so look for resources to help if you struggle to quit.

5. It’s a proven fact that stress physiologically affects heart health. Make it a priority to manage your stress with these tips from Harvard University. A.) Stay positive B.) Make time to meditate C.) Exercise D.) Unplug from T.V. news or other stress triggers E.) Find your own techniques to relieve stress

3. Your weight affects your heart health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 35% of Nebraskans are obese, and another 35% are overweight, meaning a majority of Nebraskans will have to be concerned about heart disease. Go to to see if your weight falls in the overweight or obese category. If so, take steps to lose weight. Being overweight increases the chance of becoming diabetic, and research has shown that people with diabetes have triple the risk of having a heart attack. According to a recent study from John Hopkins University, obesity can lead to heart failure—even if a person doesn’t have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.

6. Reduce salt intake. Research from the New England Journal of Medicine shows that reducing salt intake dramatically reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Try using lemon pepper or other spices instead of salt.

7. Brush your teeth. It may seem crazy, but researchers have proven that the bacteria that causes gum disease can also increase the risk of heart disease. Keeping your mouth clean helps your heart, too.

8. Drink moderately. According to John Hopkins University, heavy drinking is linked to high blood pressure, heart failure, and cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disorder. Moderate drinking is defined as 12 ounces of beer or four ounces of wine in one day.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Taking care of yourself and your heart can give you a longer life and a better quality of life. It’s Heart Month, but any month is a good time to benefit from heart-healthy practices.