Have a heart — and have a life

This February, have a heart.

After all, you won’t get far without a working one.

This is American Heart Month, and for good reason — according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:

Following a heart attack, 1 in 4 women will die within the first year, and 1 in 5 men

One American dies from a stroke every 4 minutes

90 percent of Americans consume too much sodium, increasing their risk for high blood pressure, a major contributor to heart disease and stroke

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all adults in the United States. Some minority groups are more likely to be affected than others: African Americans have the highest rate of high blood pressure of all population groups, and they tend to develop it earlier in life than others.

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death for U.S. adults, but the risk of having a stroke varies. Compared to whites, African Americans are nearly twice as likely to have a first stroke. Hispanic Americans’ risk falls between the two. African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to die following a stroke than are whites.

Individuals with low incomes are much more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack, and stroke than their high-income peers.

Many risks for heart disease and stroke — including high blood pressure and high cholesterol — may not have any symptoms. Many of these risks — specifically high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and obesity — are preventable and controllable. Controlling these risks could reduce your risk for heart attack or stroke by more than 80 percent.

Simple changes can make a big difference; here are some ideas for getting started:

Talk to your doctor about ways to control high blood pressure.

Add physical activity to your daily routine.

Make healthy eating swaps, such as using fresh or dried herbs and spices instead of salt.

Quit smoking.

Simple changes, such as taking medication as prescribed, eating healthier, getting regular exercise, and quitting smoking, can make a big difference in improving your health. Talk to your health care professionals, learn about heart health and share what you know with your friends, neighbors and loved ones.

For more information, visit www.millionhearts.hhs.gov.