It’s American Heart Month. Do you know your heart health?

It’s probably no coincidence that February is American Heart Month. It’s a good time for conversations about matters of the heart, and it’s a great time to talk to your healthcare provider about your blood pressure and cholesterol so you can figure out if you are at risk for heart disease. Nationally, heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults.

Heart disease, as we all know, can lead to a heart attack. Can you remind us about the symptoms of a heart attack?

Not everyone who has a heart attack will have all of these signs. In fact, men and women often have different symptoms. The most common signs of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, pain or discomfort in the upper body, trouble breathing, feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting, stomach ache or heartburn, feeling light-headed or unusually tired, and breaking out in a cold sweat.

If you have any of these symptoms and think you might be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

How can symptoms be different for women?

Just like men, the most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But it’s important to note that women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Women may instead experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in their lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure, or extreme fatigue.

If heart disease runs in your family, what can you do to reduce your risk?

Anyone with a family history of heart disease has a higher risk for developing it, but there are several things you can do to reduce your risk. If you smoke, quitting smoking is the No. 1 thing you can do to reduce your risk. If you have diabetes, controlling blood glucose levels is key. You can also make sure to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and eat a healthy diet by keeping portion sizes down and incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meat, fish, and nuts into your diet.

What’s the best way to know your risk?

The best way to understand your risk is through regular medical checkups, where you’ll get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked and you can develop a heart health plan with your healthcare provider. Early detection is very important when it comes to preventing and treating heart disease. When you know your risk, you can start making healthy changes to your lifestyle to reduce it.

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