February is associated with hearts largely because of Valentine’s Day, and it is also designated as American Heart Month, a time dedicated to educating both men and women about cardiovascular health and promoting heart-healthy lifestyles.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 600,000 lives every year. Understanding the risk factors for heart disease and taking the necessary precautions to improve heart health can drastically affect the quality of a person’s life and even how long they live.

Cardiovascular diseases appear in many forms, including coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, and much more. In fact, heart diseases in varying forms are responsible for one in four deaths in the U.S. Because of these alarming numbers, it is important to be aware of health conditions and other risk factors that can increase the risk of heart disease.

Risk Factors to Consider:

  • Smoking: Smoking damages blood vessels and heart tissue, dramatically increasing the risk for heart conditions such as hardening of the arteries and heart attack.
  • Unhealthy Diet: Diets high in cholesterol, sodium and saturated fats can contribute to heart disease. A primary care provider (PCP) can work with patients to determine the best diet plan.
  • Lack of exercise: Physical inactivity plays a large role in many health problems, particularly those associated with the heart. Increasing “cardio” workouts has proven beneficial for many. Short walks or stretching are great places to start for those who live a sedentary lifestyle.
  • High Blood Pressure: Hypertension, or high blood pressure, strains the heart. Health conditions such as diabetes and obesity and lifestyle choices such as excessive alcohol use increase blood pressure. Managing blood pressure decreases the risk of both stroke and heart disease.
  • High Stress: Chronic stress can contribute to heart disease. Learning to recognize stress and practicing stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing exercises can help reduce a person’s risk for heart disease.

During American Heart Month, patients are encouraged to take time to examine their lifestyle and consider making heart-healthy changes. Regular check-ups and screenings from a Primary Care Provider (PCP) are encouraged.

Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) has 12 family practice and primary care providers in multiple locations. To schedule an appointment or for more information about screenings, call (606) 430- 3500. To learn more about the Heart and Vascular Institute of Eastern Kentucky at PMC, visit https://www.pikevillehospital.org/services/heart-and-vascular-institute/.