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Article updated: 1/31/2013 11:57 AM

This Valentine's Day Focus on Your Heart

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Many people give their loved ones chocolates or flowers for Valentine's Day. While appeasing the hearts of others is the focus, the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center is encouraging people to also pay attention to their own hearts in observance of this day.

Heart disease is a major leading cause of death in the United States. The term "heart disease" refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type is coronary artery disease, which can cause heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias. Lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for developing this disease. All persons can take steps to lower their risk of heart disease and heart attack by addressing these risk factors. Following are five key prevention steps:

• Talk to Your Health Care Provider. Share your health history, get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked, and ask if taking an aspirin each day is right for you.

• Control Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol. If your blood pressure or cholesterol is high, take steps to lower it. This could include eating a healthier diet, getting more exercise, and following you health care professional's instructions about medications you take.

• Eat Healthy for Your Heart. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Select foods with the lowest sodium. Limit foods with high amounts of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.

• Get moving. Make physical activity part of your daily routine to help keep your body at a healthy weight. Try to fit in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week.

• Quit smoking. Smoking greatly increases your risk of heart disease. If you don't smoke, don't start. You can also support smoke-free policies in your community and try to avoid secondhand smoke.

So while you are shopping for gifts for your loved ones this Valentine's Day, also think about a gift for yourself. Take into account your own health and blend these prevention steps into your daily routine. For more tips on preventing and controlling chronic diseases, visit:

http://www.lakecountyil.gov/Health/resources/Pages/HealthEd.aspx.

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