Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The good news? It is also one of the most preventable. Making heart-healthy choices, knowing your family health history and the risk factors for heart disease, having regular check-ups and working with your physician to manage your health are all integral aspects of saving lives from this often silent killer. FEBRUARY IS HEART HEALTH MONTH. Time to make your heart happy and healthy!

What Works for Women?

A new study followed nearly 70,000 women for 20 years. 

Not only did the women who followed all six healthy habits nearly get rid of their heart attack risk -- cutting it by 92% -- they also lowered their odds of getting a risk factor, like high blood pressure, by 66%.

Here are the six habits that mattered:

  • Don't smoke.
  • Have a normal body mass index (BMI).
  • Get moderate to vigorous exercise for at least 2.5 hours a week.
  • Watch 7 or fewer hours of television weekly.
  • Drink one or fewer alcoholic beverages daily.
  • Eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, or omega-3 fatty acids -- as well as limit sugary drinks, processed and red meats, trans fats, and sodium.

What Works for Men?

In another recent study that looked at men and heart disease, Swedish researchers followed more than 20,000 men from 1997 through 2009.

The researchers found that following these five habits cut men’s heart attack risk by 86%:

  • Don't smoke.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Drink alcohol moderately: about two or fewer drinks daily.
  • Be physically active -- walk or cycle at least 40 minutes daily.
  • Have a waist circumference of less than 37 inches.

In addition, these tips are good for both women and men:

  • Schedule an appointment with your doctor to talk about heart health. It’s important to keep regular check-ups even if you don’t think you are sick.
  • Take steps to quit smoking. Quitting smoking can cut your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Take medications as prescribed. Talk with your doctor about the importance of your high blood pressure and cholesterol medications if you take them. 

Make this a great Valentine’s Day- give yourself the gift of a healthy heart this month and every month