For the shortest month of the year, there’s a lot going on in February!

We kick things off on February 2 with Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow to deliver his annual prognostication:  either an early spring (doubtful)…or 6 more weeks of winter (more likely). Valentine’s Day follows on February 14, with outpourings of love and devotion, not to mention flowers, and candy.

But without a doubt, the most important event in February is American Heart Month.

A healthy heart is vital to a long, active life. Did you know that cardio-vascular diseases are the leading cause of death in both men and women? That’s why it’s so important to make lifestyle changes now that can lower your risk of future heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

Start Improving Your Heart Health TODAY!

No matter what your age, you can take steps toward lowering your risk of developing heart disease. Many of the suggestions below are inexpensive and easy to implement. Taking even little steps today will make a difference in your heart health in the future.

1.  Watch your weight and eat a healthier diet. At each meal, make at least half of the foods on your plate fruits and vegetables. Incorporate whole grains into your daily diet. And switch to fat-free or low fat (1%) milk. If you need help getting started, visit You’ll find heart-healthy tips, recipes, menus and more.

2.  If you smoke, quit! And if you don’t, stay away from secondhand smoke as much as possible. Smoking affects nearly every organ in your body. It raises blood pressure, which in turn puts stress on your heart. Eventually smoking weakens your heart, making it less effective at pumping blood through your body. It also makes your blood thicker. The harder your heart has to work and the thicker your blood is, the more likely it is to form clots which could block flow to heart, brain and legs. And that increases risk for heart attack or stroke, not to mention increasing the amount of cholesterol and unhealthy fats circulating in your bloodstream.

3.  Do everything you can to control your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The Centers For Disease Control estimates that 2 out of every 3 adults in the United States have cholesterol levels that are out of control. Work with your doctor to bring your levels into the acceptable range. Check your blood pressure frequently – at home, at your local pharmacy or in your doctor’s office. And, if you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels frequently to keep it in check.

4. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Over time, high levels of alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease – as well as other physical, mental, and social conditions (depression, chronic alcoholism, job loss, etc.) Standard guidelines are two drinks per day for men, 1 drink per day for women.

5.  Get more active. Try to do at least 10 minutes of physical activity at a time. It can range from something simple like a walk around the block to more strenuous exercise like running or bicycling. Choose activities that you enjoy and can – and will – do regularly.

Need Help Starting Your Journey Toward Better Heart Health?

Achieving and maintaining a healthy heart is a lifelong process. Every little change you make in your diet or lifestyle today will yield long-lasting benefits in the future. Over time, these heart-healthy strategies will become part of your daily routine.

For more information about heart health and treatment of heart-related diseases, consult these local resources:

Lehigh Valley Health Network – to get information about heart disease or get help finding the right doctor, call 610-402-CARE (2273)

St Luke’s Hospital – offers community education seminars relating to heart health and heart diseases; for more info call 1-800-HEART75 (432-7875)

American Heart Association – their local office is located at 212 East Broad Street, Bethlehem, PA. Call 610-867-0583.

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