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Cindy Boggs is an American Council on Exercise-certified fitness professional, corporate wellness presenter and author of the award winning book, "CindySays … You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World." Send inquiries/comments to

True or false? Most of your risk factors for heart disease and stroke — specifically high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and obesity — are preventable and controllable. The answer is YES! 

February is heart month and it's the perfect time to evaluate our risk for heart disease and/or stroke. Heart disease kills approximately 630,000 Americans each year and is the leading cause of death for both men and women. 

Million hearts mission

Launched in September 2011, the Million Hearts initiative aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. By aligning existing efforts and creating new programs, it hopes to show that improving the health system can save lives by enhancing cardiovascular disease prevention tactics across the public and private sectors.


Heart disease and stroke  

In an attempt to make an impact on heart disease and stroke prevention, several strategies are being targeted. This effort is led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Those strategies include:

  • Providing better access to effective care,
  • Improving the quality of care,
  • Concentrating on clinical attention to heart attack and stroke prevention,
  • Raising public awareness of heart-healthy lifestyles, and
  • Promoting the message that consistent use of high blood pressure and cholesterol medications reduces risk 

Easy steps for excellent results

  • Clean up the diet: Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables — five servings each day for adults. Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber. Limit salt.
  • Maintain or work toward a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. Check to see if your weight is in a healthy range by calculating your body mass index—BMI—at 
  • Exercise regularly: Physical activity plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy weight and will help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines, adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week or two hours and 30 minutes —150 minutes total — of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. They should also do two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities working all major muscle groups. 

  • Monitor your blood pressure: High blood pressure, the silent killer, won't give you a heads up before it strikes so have it checked on a regular basis and treat if necessary. 
  • Don't smoke: Cigarette smoking will get you one way or the other. It increases your risk for heart disease tremendously. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Seek help to quit. 
  • Limit alcohol use: Too much alcohol will increase your blood pressure and make it difficult to control your weight
  • Check your cholesterol: Test your cholesterol levels at least once every 5 years. It's a simple blood test that can save your life. 
  • Manage diabetes. Monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and understand your treatment options. 

We control our own destiny

We are lucky because we are armed with the knowledge to prevent and lower our risk of heart disease. This is an important month and an important message to follow. Know your numbers and make it a priority to align yourself with health. 

Heart disease rarely uses surprise tactics to kill us. Even when we have no warnings, we have the ability to acquire all information needed to make a dramatic difference in our chance to beat heart disease. Use it for life. 

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