Every year, the American Heart Association designates February as “Heart Month,” and not because it’s Valentine’s Day. While some of us will enjoy a steak dinner with roses, candlelight, and chocolate desserts, it’s important to remember how rampant heart disease is in our society.

Heart disease is the number one “killer”

I hate to use that word, “killer,” but it’s a sad and true fact. Even above cancer, heart disease is by and large the most prevalent health issue in our country. You don’t necessarily need to be overweight to have heart issues, though increased weight can raise the risk of heart disease. And when we say, “heart disease,” it can mean any number of things: coronary artery disease (where the arteries in the heart itself are not healthy), heart attack, aortic aneurysm, even stroke. It’s an all-encompassing term.

Why is heart health so important?

I had an instructor in physical therapy school who said, “I’ve never treated a patient without a heart.” Your heart is one of the most vital organs in your body. Without it, everything else suffers. Think about it: your heart beats all day and all night, without rest. If your heart muscle isn’t strong or healthy, it will begin to fail which can lead to other problems.

Now I’m scared! What can I do?

Have no fear! The cardiovascular system is amazing. It is adaptable and responds beautifully to exercise, exactly the same way our muscles, bones, and joints do. The simplest solution? Go for a walk. (We know, we know. How many times have we told you do go for a walk in the last year?) Start with 10 minutes, then go for 15. Make a goal to walk for at least 30 minutes straight. The recommendation is to walk (or other aerobic exercise including cycling, rowing, swimming, skating, dancing) on all or most days of the week. That’s a lot for most of us, so aim for three days per week.

Can I just eat better?

A healthy diet is crucial to a healthy heart! Choose foods that have good fats in them, like olive oil, avocados, and fish. Leafy vegetables never hurt anyone, either! But don’t forget our bodies were made to move, so a combination of diet and exercise will give you the most bang for your buck.

Stay tuned for more Heart Month topics!

Keep reading our blog for more tips on how to take care of your heart, what the heck those numbers mean on your blood pressure reading, what a healthy heart means for COVID-19, and more!