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girl-heart-in-handHeart disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, accountable for 1 in every 4 deaths each year. The good news is that we are not helpless against it, and together we can help prevent heart disease by making smarter choices about what we eat and how we live.

Celebrated each year in February, American Heart Month is the perfect time to start making small but important changes that will have a lasting impact on heart health, and a great place to start is with the Life’s Simple 7™ Action Plan from the American Heart Association (AHA):

  1. Get Active: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) each day, five times per week, to help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Children should get 60 minutes a day, every day.
  2. Control Cholesterol: Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels protects your arteries and helps prevent blockages that can lead to heart disease and stroke. Get a regular screening, stay active, and eat foods that are low in cholesterol and unhealthy fats.
  3. Eat Better: A healthy diet is critical to preventing heart disease. Eat plenty of healthy fats (especially from fish and olive oil) along with low-sugar fruits, non-starchy veggies, protein, nuts and legumes. Eliminate added sugars, starchy carbohydrates and trans
  4. Manage Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range with the right diet and lifestyle helps protect your heart as well as the blood vessels supporting it.
  5. Lose Weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes—all of which may contribute to heart disease. Even losing five or 10 pounds can make a big difference when it comes to heart health!
  6. Reduce Blood Sugar: High blood sugar increases the risk of developing heart disease. Check your blood sugar levels regularly, and eliminate added sugars. Reduce your intake of carbohydrates from starchy foods such as breads, pasta and starchy veggies.
  7. Stop Smoking: Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing heart disease because of the damage smoking does to the entire circulatory system. Quitting is the one of the best things you can do for your heart!

This month, you can help raise awareness about heart disease and spread the word about the benefits of adopting the Life’s Simple 7™ Action for a healthier, happier heart. Be sure to get the word out in your community!

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man-cellphoneThis month we’ve offered up some quick tips for making 2015 a happier and healthier new year—and we hope you take this last one to heart (literally).

Many of us use social media to share our thoughts on countless topics, but sometimes those thoughts can get a little… well, irritable. Curious about whether or not our cyberspace griping says something about our heart health, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania recently analyzed 140 million randomly chosen “tweets” (individual posts on Twitter) to find the answer. What they discovered might just surprise you.

In communities in which where there were a high number of tweets expressing hatred, aggression or fatigue, the research team saw higher rates of heart disease—with use of the word “hate” being the single biggest predictor of poor heart health. But, in those areas in which there were a high number of positive, upbeat tweets, researchers saw lower rates of heart disease.

We know from previous studies that stress, anxiety and other negative emotions can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, so it comes as no surprise that the same emotions in cyberspace are associated with an unhealthy heart. Our final health tip for the year? Be sure to put a positive spin on those social media posts!

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