In 1963 President Lyndon B. Johnson declared February American Heart Month, urging Americans “to give heed to the nationwide problem of the heart and blood-vessel diseases and to support the programs required to bring about its solution.” Today, despite tremendous advances in medical research and treatment, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in this country, accounting for one out of every four deaths annually.
The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. In the United States, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to heart attack. You can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medicine.
High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors. Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including
- Overweight and obesity
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
Making some small changes in your lifestyle can help you maintain a healthy heart:
- Get more sleep: Try for at least seven hours to repair and restore your body.
- Watch your blood pressure High blood pressure (hypertension) can damage your arteries and make your heart pump harder. Get your blood pressure checked every 3-5 years if you’re 18-39. If you’re 40 or older, or if you have high blood pressure, check it every year.
- Cut saturated fats: To help your heart’s arteries, cut down on saturated fats, which are mainly found in meat and full-fat dairy products, and To help your heart’s arteries, cut down on saturated fats, which are mainly found in meat and full-fat dairy products and eliminate trans fats, which are found in some processed foods — they drive up your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol level.
- Find out if you have diabetes: Millions of people don’t know that they have it and that’s risky because over time, high blood sugar damages arteries and makes heart disease more likely. Your doctor should test your blood sugar if you are 45 or older, if you are pregnant, or if you’re overweight and have other risk factors for diabetes.
- Get more exercise: Aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of moderate exercise. That includes any activity that gets you moving around and breaking a slight sweat. If you’re doing nothing, do something. If you’re doing something, do more.
Got kids? Help them get a headstart with good dental hygiene.
Dental hygiene is one of the most important things we can teach our children. Unfortunately, for a lot of parents, getting kids to brush and floss their teeth is like … well, like pulling teeth. But if we want to protect our kids from having their teeth actually pulled at some point in their lives, we’ve got to show them the ins and outs of proper dental health.
American Dental Association and Crest + Oral B designated February National Children’s Dental Health Month to highlight a program that can provide parents with the tools they need to teach kids about dental and oral health. The campaign’s slogan covers the basics: “Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile.”
This program was first launched by the American Dental Association (ADA) in 1949 as a single day event that was changed to a month-long celebration in 1981. To help you show your children the importance of good dental hygiene, the ADA offers a variety of age-appropriate materials on their website, including puzzles and coloring pages.
Here are some tips to help your kids adopt healthy dental hygiene habits:
- Brush and floss together: Kids love doing stuff with their parents and taking care of your teeth together will make them feel like a “big person.”
- Let them pick out a fun toothbrush When it’s time to replace the old toothbrush, opt for a colorful, soft-bristled brush or one with your child’s favorite cartoon character.
- Choose a special toothpaste: There are lots of kid-friendly toothpastes available in colors, flavors, and themes that encourage kids to brush.
- Watch and read together: Your local library has children’s books and videos with dental hygiene themes. Pick one out and read or watch it together and turn teeth into an adventure.
Got questions? We’ve got answers! Give us a call or stop by Community Health Connections for more ways to stay happy and healthy.