Often, when we think of February and hearts, what comes to mind is St. Valentine’s Day.

Far too rarely do we think about our beating hearts, the muscle within us that pumps blood and oxygen. 

February is American Heart Month, and there are ways to help reduce the risk of heart disease and to help take care better of our hearts. 

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 1.5 million people each year have a heart attack or a stroke. The Million Hearts 2022 — under the auspices of the Centers for Disease Control and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — is a campaign with a goal to prevent 1 million such events within the next five years. 

The HHS reports that death rates from heart disease have been falling for the last 40 years, but that rate seems to have stalled. 

And that has has health professionals worried.

There are a number of risk factors that could lead to heart disease — obesity, lack of physical activity, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes are among them. 

If you have high blood pressure, get it under control. If you have high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity, look at changing your diet and find ways to become more physically active. If you smoke cigarettes, rubbing them out permanently is a big step toward better heart, and lung, health.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends talking to your health care professional about the ABCS — aspirin when appropriate; blood pressure control; cholesterol management and smoking cessation.

If you want to change what you eat to cut down the chances of heart disease, whole foods low in transfats, saturated fats, sodium and added sugar are recommended. More fruits and vegetables are also a good idea in the place of foods with lots of added fats and extra sodium and sugar.

Keeping good care of the heart you have can help you stay around to share your heart with someone special next Valentine’s Day.

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