(WXIN/WTTV) — February is heart.org/events/february-is-american-heart-month-national-wear-red-day-black-history-month-and-more”>American Heart Month and health professionals everywhere are urging you to prioritize your heart health.

In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. That’s why this month, health professionals say it’s a good idea to practice a little self-care and get to know your heart by taking inventory of your habits, getting a screening or talking to a health professional.

According to the CDC, roughly 695,000 Americans die each year of heart disease, which is about 1 in 5 deaths. At Hancock Health, health professionals say little changes to your fitness regimen, your diet and overall lifestyle can make all the difference.

“Just remember, moderation is key. And doing something you love. We don’t want to push you to do something that you hate getting up and doing every day,” said Amanda Rumler, who works as a marketing and community specialist at Hancock Health. “If you’re not a runner, if you don’t want to tackle a marathon, then you’re not going to stick with it. So, just finding something you love that you’re going to stick with, swimming, walking, mind-body classes. Those things, again, just do wonders in keeping your heart healthy and preventing those chronic diseases.”

For many health professionals, the golden rule for “cardio” is getting 10,000 steps per day. Rumler admits that can be hard to get done, but says just adding a few more steps here and there, such as parking further away or taking a five-minute walk after dinner can seriously help.

The same goes for your diet. Rumler emphasizes that it doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” approach. And says people shouldn’t focus on removing things from their diet, but rather adding healthier options to help form better habits.

“Again, just taking small changes throughout the day, maybe picking up a healthier snack in the afternoon so that you’re not crashing at the end of the day. Maybe it’s just reducing the caffeine intake, cutting down that extra cup of coffee. So, just little steps with those dietary changes. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You don’t have to give up sweets altogether, but maybe just reducing sugar, picking up those lower sugar items,” she said.

Rumler admits high sugar and high sodium foods are things you do want to reduce whenever you can but said that doesn’t mean you should avoid those things altogether.

She also adds there is no such thing as perfection. So, if you’re not perfect with your diet and exercise, she said that’s ok. As tomorrow is always a new day and a new opportunity to make progress.

Hancock Health also boasts the only verified medical fitness facilities in the region, which they say are stocked with resources and professionals that can help anyone begin or continue their path to heart health. You can find more information here.  

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