February is American Heart Month, making this an ideal time to remind us to focus on protecting our heart health. Chances are, you know someone who has been affected by heart disease and stroke. An average of one death occurs every 38 seconds due to some form of heart disease. The term “heart disease” is a broad term that encompasses several problems with the heart. Afflictions such as coronary artery disease (plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries), cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle), atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rhythm), and heart valve problems are among the most common disorders diagnosed under this broad term of heart disease.

Risk factors and prevention methods are similar in heart disease and stroke. Just as plaque builds up in the heart arteries can cause a heart attack, plaque buildup in the arteries supplying blood to the brain can limit blood flow and cause a stroke. Strokes can be devastating, often leaving individuals with life-altering, long-lasting side effects. By taking steps to prevent heart disease, you can also help prevent a stroke.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, costing the United States about $200 billion each year. Focusing on prevention is the first step in an effort to reduce these staggering statistics.

There are modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors for heart disease. Unfortunately, we cannot change things like age and family history, but we can focus on healthy diets and lifestyle choices. These efforts can improve our health and lower the risk of heart disease by as much as 80%.

The recommendations for healthy living won’t come as a surprise, but it is worth exploring them, as the devastating effects of cardiovascular disease will impact us all at some point.

Healthy Habits:
-Maintain a healthy blood pressure
-Sustain your optimal weight (Reference Body Mass Index table)
-Get regular exercise
-Do not smoke and avoid secondhand smoke
-Limit excessive alcohol consumption
-Manage stress
-Control cholesterol
-Regulate blood sugar
-Eat a healthy diet
-Don’t ignore snoring—A condition called Sleep Apnea increases risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Across the nation, there is a healthcare push to focus on prevention. If you have concerns about your risk for heart disease, schedule an appointment with your Primary Care Provider or a cardiologist to learn more about how to improve your heart health and your overall well-being. Many local cardiologists do not require a referral and can facilitate the appropriate testing, if any is indicated, to gauge your personal risk for cardiovascular disease.

Eating healthy does not have to be difficult. Here is an affordable (less than $2 per serving), and easy, low-calorie crock-pot meal from Better Homes & Gardens.

Pork Tacos
Makes 8 servings
2 pounds pork tenderloin
1 envelope of reduced-sodium taco seasoning mix
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ cup snipped fresh cilantro
8 eight to ten inch tortillas
Any desired toppings, such as salsa, avocado slices, snipped fresh cilantro
Place pork in a slow cooker. Sprinkle taco seasoning over pork. Pour the lime juice and ½ cup water over pork. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours.

Transfer pork to a cutting board. Shred pork using two forks. Return shredded meat and the cilantro to cooker and stir to combine with cooking liquid. Serve meat in tortillas with desired toppings.

Article sponsored by Kingston Health Care. Written by Leah Keena, MSN, FNP-C is a Nurse Practitioner with Lutheran Medical Cardiology

Camille Garrison

Leah Keena, MSN, FNP-C

Camille is a community leader, event organizer, trails supporter and more! After working near Waynedale for just over a year, she knew she wanted to call it home. She loves the friendliness and closeness of the community and have grown to be very passionate about seeing Waynedale prosper. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer