Before asking someone to be your Valentine check the condition of your heart first! February is American Heart Month, a time when heart health is highlighted. Considering every year 635,000 or more people in the United States experience their first heart attack, it’s an excellent focus.

The Golden Years do not change your heart health. Plenty of Seniors think it’s too late to make any changes, however anything beneficial for your heart is good. While genetics and lifestyle do have a great impact on longevity, today’s Seniors are living much longer than ever before. Make the most of the Golden Years by taking care of your heart.

Risk Factors
Are you aware of the risk factors for heart disease? Experts at the Mayo Clinic remind us even though one risk factor may cause heart failure a combination adds more risk. Be aware of the following:
• Coronary Artery Disease –heart muscles become weak when arteries are narrow. Blood is unable to carry a sufficient amount of oxygen resulting in decreased capacity.
• High cholesterol – Do you know your cholesterol level? Talk to your doctor to make sure it is within the limits. If not, you will be instructed on approaches to adjust your numbers. Follow your doctor’s advice!
• Obesity – Every overweight Senior will know how difficult it is to lose weight in their 50s or 60s. There are ways to take off some excess weight. Ask your doctor to help you find the resources needed.
• Smoking – Smoking remains one of the major risk factors and causes damage to other parts of the body as well.
• Sedentary lifestyle – The body was created to move. Even in your Golden Years exercise is still important. Those who don’t stay fit become sitting ducks for heart disease.
High Blood Pressure- also known as the Silent Killer, High Blood Pressure numbers are important to know. Make sure you check and document your blood pressure numbers on a regular basis.

The Silent Killers
Even with all the information available there are people who are unaware of the major factors in heart disease: High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol. These risk factors may not present symptoms, making it important to know your personal history. It is just as important to exercise, handle your stress and eat healthy. If you are on prescribed medication be sure to follow the directions as given by health care providers.

Live Healthy
It isn’t just enough to know about the risk factors. Address the health risks pertaining to you. There is always time to adopt healthy habits. Exercise lowers your stress levels, helps you lose weight, and fights against High Blood Pressure. Eliminating bad fats from diets and following a heart healthy eating plan will help keep your cholesterol low. It may also help you lose excess weight.

In addition to food and exercise take time to enjoy life. Spend time with friends and family and select fun activities you delight in, choose joy. Explore your spiritual side and do activities bringing you happiness.

Make Small Changes
If thinking it is too challenging or overwhelming start on a lower scale. Going for a short walk is better than no walk. Starting out small and building up stamina is the best way to make true progress.

Drastic changes to eating habits should be gradual. Cut out one or two items for a period of time. Add other healthy substitutes gradually. For example if you are used to eating fried foods find alternative cooking methods. Cutting unnecessary bad fats out of your diet does not need to be painful but not eliminating them is possibly fatal. Processed foods are frequently loaded with salt and bad for blood pressure. Learn to read labels and recognize high sodium, carbs and fat in the ingredients.

The Importance of Your Heart
In 1963 Congress approved a Joint Resolution requesting the President to issue an annual proclamation announcing February as “American Heart Month.” February 14th is Valentine’s Day, a day when people are thinking of the lighter side of heart issues. This February, before you give your heart to the one you love make sure you know what condition it’s in. If it needs some work make the commitment to do what needs to be done. Love yourself!!!