February 20, 2013 | by Ray Martins
February is Heart Health Month

February is probably best known for Valentine’s Day. February is also Heart Health Month, an opportunity for all of us to think about what we can do to prevent heart disease.

Without a doubt, heart disease is a medical crisis. It is the No. 1 cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. Heart disease causes one in every four deaths.

And, according to the CDC, D.C. has one of the highest rates of heart disease in the nation.

Heart disease is more prevalent in the LGBT community than in the heterosexual community. Lesbians and bisexual women have higher rates of obesity and smoking, which are risk factors for heart disease, while gay and bisexual men are also known to have higher rates of smoking.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. We all know them. We’ve all heard them, over and over. We just need to DO them.

Exercise. All that is needed is moderate physical activity that gets your heart rate up and moving. Go for a long walk every day. Take the stairs at work or in your building. Simple, regular activities will help keep your weight down and reduce stress, two important things for a healthier heart.

Stop smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, stop now. Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by two to four times. Stopping smoking is hard, but your primary care physician can help you quit.

Eat healthier. You don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan, although those are good diets for heart health. Just ask President Clinton. But eating healthier will help reduce your weight and your cholesterol. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Cut back on salt and sugar. Drink more water. Eat reasonable portions. The most important thing you can do is to reduce the calories you intake each day.

There’s one more habit you should adopt: regular medical checkups.

An annual physical can help your provider keep track of your overall health along with your heart health. Keeping an eye on your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels will help her or him advise you on the best ways to keep your heart healthy, from changing your diet to any needed medications.

And that’s where Whitman-Walker Health can keep your heart healthy.

Our providers can conduct regular exams to monitor the health of your heart, including your blood pressure and cholesterol. You can get any needed medications at our onsite pharmacy.

Our Behavioral Health department can help you with smoking cessation services.

And our nutritionist can help you learn how to eat a heart-healthy diet.

All of those services are available under one roof at WWH. As one large team that works together, we can help to improve your overall health.

Please take the health of your heart seriously. Taking care of yourself can help you to live a long, healthy and happy life.

To become a patient at WWH, visit whitman-walker.org/becomeapatient or call 202-745-7000.

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