February is American Heart Health Month, which aims to bring awareness to the prevalence of heart disease and the importance of heart health.

Heart disease can affect anyone

Make no mistake: heart disease does not discriminate based on age, sex, or ethnicity. It’s possible for anyone to contract heart disease, whether they are normal weight or obese, young or old, male or female. If you think that you are immune from having to take care of your heart because of any of these or other reasons, you are incorrect.

Perhaps the most important fact to remember this year during Heart Health Month is that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, and it is responsible for 1 out of every 4 deaths in the U.S. Don’t let this reality make you fearful or paralyze you from taking action, however. Use this as an opportunity to learn more about how you can treat your heart well.

Diet and exercise are crucial to heart health

Proper diet and frequent exercise are vital to maintaining a healthy heart and getting back on the right track in the event of a heart disorder. There are plenty of ways to get healthier foods into your diet. Try reducing the amount of meat in your average meal and replace some of it with a heart-healthy alternative such as leafy green vegetables. Also, do your best to limit your intake of processed foods, which can be packed with sugar, salt, and fat that can be bad for your heart and blood pressure. Try snacking on whole fruits and heart-healthy nuts (such as almonds or walnuts) instead.

Your heart is a muscle, and getting regular activity helps strengthen it just like with any other muscle. You can do intense cardio and weightlifting if it suits you, but you don’t have to have a gym membership in order to help your heart. Find everyday ways to stay active, such as taking afternoon walks or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

AFib and other arrhythmias can increase your risks

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a type of heat arrhythmia that occurs when the atria beat out of sequence. It can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack, so it’s important to recognize the warning signs and seek treatment from a cardiac electrophysiologist as soon as possible if you suspect that you may have it.

If you or a loved one are living with a heart rhythm disorder, contact Heart Rhythm Consultants. Dr. Dilip Mathew is board certified in Cardiology & Cardiac Electrophysiology and has been serving patients in Sarasota and surrounding cities including Port Charlotte, Venice, Tampa and Sun City Center for over a decade.