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Club Chronicles: How to keep your heart young

February is the official “heart month” – Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month. Many clubs donate to the American Heart Association and give programs on heart health facts to raise awareness for heart disease. Members wear red on the first Friday in February, which is the National Wear Red Day.

On Valentine’s Day, Americans give fabulous gifts to their loved ones. This year, consider also giving them heart health facts that will keep their hearts young and prevent heart disease.

Every year more than 600,000 Americans die from heart disease. It is the No. 1 cause of deaths for most groups, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. The following are a few heart facts you may share:

Choose cardiovascular exercise: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about three in four American adults do not get enough physical activity. This inactivity weakens your bones and muscles, which can damage the heart and brain plus raise the possibility of dementia.  Exercise lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and decreases the risk for heart disease. Exercise on a regular basis is also good for your mind and increases your cognition function, meaning better memory, attention and executive function, like controlling emotions and completing tasks.

Quit smoking and chewing tobacco: Smoking and smokeless tobacco contribute to high blood pressure by constricting blood vessels, which can damage your heart and kidneys.

Say goodbye to binge drinking: Too much heavy drinking can weaken the heart muscle that can lead to heart failure. Men should limit themselves to two drinks per day, and women should stick to one drink per day. Avoid drinking large quantities of alcohol at once.

Watch your sodium intake: Quick processed or fast food meals are packed with sodium, which contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease risk. Limit daily sodium intake to the recommended 2,400 milligrams by eating lean meat, fish, fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains.

Avoid energy drinks: Caffeine-filled beverages increase heart attack and stroke risk by raising blood pressure and triggering arrhythmia. Limit caffeine intake to 500 milligrams per day, and don’t consume energy drinks every day.

Get screened for depression: Depression is reported in about one in 10 American adults according to the American Heart Association. Depression is linked to physiological changes in the nervous system and stress hormone balance, which put you at risk for an arrhythmia.

Know your health numbers:  Make note when your health care provider tells you your blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting blood sugar numbers. Ask how to get and keep these numbers in the normal range.

If you’re young and feel healthy, heart trouble later in life probably isn’t on your mind. However, you can take steps now to improve your heart health and change habits that could be setting you up for future cardiovascular problems.