It's a good time to be heart smart.
This month is American Heart Month, and we're reminding Ohio Valley residents to be heart-smart not only this month, but all year long.
Unfortunately the Ohio Valley continues to lead many parts of the country in illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, and heart disease ranks at the top, too.
The grim fact is heart disease is still the No. 1 cause of death in America. Statistics prove that approximately 715,000 people have heart attacks every year and heart disease kills more than 600,000 Americans each year - that's despite many steps taken through research and education to raise awareness of risk factors.
Other statistics show that an estimated 785,000 Americans had a new coronary attack in 2010, while approximately 470,000 had a recurrent attack.
On the financial side, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, costs the United States $312.6 billion each year, and that includes the cost of health care services, medications and lost productivity.
The good news is that it's really not too late to start practicing a more healthy diet and lifestyle.
Moderation in food consumption is one key to becoming more healthy. Cutting some calories and just eating more fruits and vegetables, as well as whole-grain foods, can go a long way in helping someone to feel better.
It's important to remember, too, that fad diets and radical changes aren't always the best route for someone wanting to improve his or her health.
The best advice is staying the course with a long-term heart-healthy food regimen.
Also important for a healthy heart is taking part in some physical activity. Even walking 20 to 30 minutes each day brings many benefits and gets your heart pumping. Remember that increased physical activity and eating healthier may help bring blood pressure and blood sugar readings to better levels, as well as improve mental well-being.
We should remember, too, that smoking is a major risk for heart disease and strokes, according to the American Heart Association. Smoking can block the blood flow and oxygen to the brain, and even secondhand smoking is dangerous and increases a person's risk for a heart attack, AHA officials have said.
We're asking area residents to become more conscious of their heart health starting today. Small steps today can lead to a healthier lifestyle and ultimately a longer life.