It’s February and one-twelfth of the year is behind us already; it’s hard to believe how quickly January passed. February may be the shortest month of the year, but it’s one that is chock full of history, events, and recognition days. There are the fun and fanciful recognitions, like Jell-O week (February 10-16), and National Tooth Fairy Day (February 28). There are also a great many historic recognitions in the month of February, including Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12th), Iwo Jima Day (February 19th), George Washington’s Birthday (February 22nd), and Black History Month.
Of course, with St. Valentine’s Day on February 14th, the month also brings many recognitions related to the heart. On February 1, Orange County Government employees turned out in red to support the American Heart Association’s "National Wear Red Day" to promote heart health and raise funds for the Association. It’s heart-warming to see the camaraderie that accompanies our casual for a cause dress down day. Other heart-related observances for February include Women’s Heart Week (February 1-7), Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week (February 7-14), and Cardiac Rehabilitation Week (February 10-16).
In recognition of February as heart month, Orange County Commissioner of Health Dr. Jean Hudson and I would like to share with you some heart health tips from the American Heart Association.
• Get active – Daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five times a week to lower your risks for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The goal for children is 60 minutes every day– so parents please do your part to serve as a role model for healthy living for your children.
• Control cholesterol – Have your cholesterol checked by a health care professional. If yours is 200 mg/dL or higher, it’s time to take action because high cholesterol can lead to blocked arteries and other problems. Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting active are all important factors in controlling cholesterol.
• Eat better – A healthy diet is one of your best weapons against cardiovascular disease. Aim for a diet that’s low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars and select foods high in whole grain fiber and lean protein, as well as a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
• Manage blood pressure – High blood pressure is the single most significant risk factor for heart disease. Keeping your blood pressure within healthy ranges reduces the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys.
• Lose weight – Carrying extra weight adds some extra strain on your heart, lungs, blood vessels, skeleton, and other systems. Losing even five or ten pounds can reduce blood pressure levels.
• Reduce blood sugar levels – Lowered blood sugar helps protect vital organs and staves off your risk for diabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke. Reduce consumption of simple sugars and increase physical activity levels.
• Quit smoking – Cigarette smokers have a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. For help with quitting, visit www.healthyorange.com or www.nysmokefree.com.
While most of this is simple, common-sense advice, it oftentimes needs reminding. For many of us, it will require a change in our lifestyle or way of thinking. But the results are worth it, for you and your loved ones – and that’s good for your heart!
Until next week, I wish you good health and happiness.