February is Heart Month in the United States, and Heart Month is dedicated to raising awareness of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, and it is also the leading cause of disability. In spite of this, a lifestyle that improves heart health can always prevent heart disease, and below are five facts regarding heart health that everyone should know.

1.)   Inactivity is a major risk to heart health

Inactivity is a major risk to heart health, and one study found that people who owned both a car and a television had a 27% higher risk of a heart attack than people who did not own either. Physical inactivity can result in obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. Most experts recommend a minimum of 30-60 minutes of exercise four times per week for heart health. 30 minutes of moderate activities are also recommended most days of the week such as housework, yard work, stair climbing, or other moderately physical activities.

2.)   Consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables is good for heart health

Consuming a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is one of the best lifestyle changes a person can make to improve their heart health. A common diet for heart health is the Mediterranean diet which includes fish, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and olive oil. All of these foods are proven to be beneficial to heart health, and a Mediterranean diet is often recommended by nutritionists following a heart attack to reduce the risk of a second one.

3.)    Almost half of Americans are at risk of heart disease

Almost one half (49%) of Americans have one of three risk factors for heart disease. The three risk factors are a high LDL cholesterol level, high blood pressure or smoking. Americans with these risk factors can reduce their risk of heart disease by implementing lifestyle changes that promote positive heart health including quitting smoking, exercising, and dieting.

4.)   Excess abdominal fat is a risk factor for heart disease

Carrying around extra weight around the waist is scientifically proven to be bad for heart health. Studies have shown that abdominal fat is a risk to heart health because it is different from fat in the rest of the body and is linked to lower HDL (good cholesterol) levels which can increase heart disease risk.

5.)   Men and women have different heart attack symptoms

Men and women have different heart attack symptoms. Women are more likely to have symptoms such as nausea, indigestion, shoulder and arm pain, and other less common symptoms when they are experiencing heart attacks.

Both genders should follow the same guidelines for improving heart health and preventing a heart attack including regular exercise, maintaining a normal blood pressure and healthy cholesterol level, avoiding obesity and consuming a diet high in vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.