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We need to take time to take care of ourselves

We honor lots of important people during the month of February, thanks to Black History Month and Presidents Day. Even Valentine’s Day is a chance to tell our loved ones how much we care. But did you know that February is also National Heart Month? Each February, the American Heart Association raises awareness about heart health and urges Americans to lower their risk for developing heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women. This disease results in more than 800,000 deaths in the United States each year, which is more than deaths caused by all forms of cancer and respiratory disease combined. That means, about 1 in every 3 people will die of cardiac issues.

The top three causes of heart disease in older and younger adults are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and smoking. If you have high blood pressure and do not have it under control, it can lead to many harmful conditions, including having a stroke. As to the other two risk factors, high cholesterol can be caused by unhealthy eating habits and being inactive; and smoking, of course, damages the blood vessels of heart. One good thing is that you can take control of your health now and reduce your risks. Start by learning how to manage any health conditions that you may have and how to lead a healthier lifestyle.

The most important thing is to eat well and to research which foods can help prevent the start of heart disease. Your diet should include fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.

Some people think only men are at risk of heart disease, but more than 400,000 women suffer from heart attacks each year. And the signs they suffer, may be different than those experienced by men. These signs can include chest pain, neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort, shortness of breath, arm pain, nausea, sweating, dizziness and tiredness. You should also be aware that in some cases, that women who suffer from heart disease may not experience any chest discomfort at all. That is why it is important to have yearly checkups with your cardiologist just to be safe.

One organization that is leading the fight against heart disease is the American Heart Association. They have worked tirelessly to improve the health of all Americans by helping fund research, educational programs, training and community services. You can visit their website to find programs for both young adults, men and women in your community that would be beneficial to helping you achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Everyone today lives a busy life, whether working one or two jobs, taking care of a family or handling the everyday stresses that life throws our way. We need to take the time to learn how to take care of ourselves, learn to eat better, exercise more and find ways to avoid unnecessary stress so that we may live healthy and happy lives.

Wishing you continued good health.

Ronald G. Rios is the director of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. He writes the occasional column for Newspaper Media Group.

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