February: Hearts, Flowers and Cardiac Health

Not only is February known for hearts because of Valentine's Day, but it is also Heart Health Month, as well.

Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death for both men and women in America and more than 600,000 people in the U.S. die from it each year. Sometimes, we are simply dealt some unfavorable cards from the deck by way of pre-existing conditions and equally unfavorable family health histories. However, we are still able to do our part to keep heart disease at bay.

A simple way we can help ourselves in the cardiac department is to keep away from cigarettes and other sorts of smoking - and if you are doing it now, making it a thing of the past is a very powerful way you can decrease your risk of heart disease. Secondhand smoke is something to consider, as well. When possible, make it a priority to get non-smoking rooms at hotels and seats at restaurants. Maybe limit time spent in outdoor smoking areas or casinos while you're at it, too.

This is possibly everyone's least favorite, but exercise is also crucial. This is particularly true when it comes to cardio fitness. A quick run here and there or giving a go at a stationary bike are simple things that, if added to your regular routine, can take minimal time but have a major impact on your heart health in a positive way.

Actually, THIS might be everyone's least favorite concession they have to make for their health - a healthy, balanced diet. In this case, it requires a bit more than the typical fad and yo-yo dieting - but really more of a lifestyle change to make a permanent positive impact on your health. Try cutting portions down of the less healthy options and supplementing with some additional vegetables and heart healthy options. Perhaps substitute red meat out for fish or lean meats every so often. Even little things like swapping candy out for a block of dark chocolate can help you take a step in the right direction. This, along with exercise, also helps to cut down on weight, which is another potential risk factor for heart disease

And finally, another thing to consider is how you manage your stress - that is, if you manage it at all. For the sake of keeping your blood pressure down, find an outlet for your stress and do what you can to eliminate stressors from your life. While work and bills aren't things you can get rid of as easily, leaving a little early so you aren't racing against the clock or not screaming at the TV during a baseball game could be a start.