By Cottage Health

When President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “American Heart Month” in February 1964, more than half of the deaths in the United States were caused by cardiovascular disease. Congress then passed a resolution asking the president to declare February “American Heart Month” every year.

Although there have been many advances in heart health and care of patients with cardiovascular disease, it remains the leading cause of death worldwide — an estimated 17.9 million deaths annually.

In the United States, it is estimated that one person succumbs to cardiovascular disease every 38 seconds.

However, there are many simple things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease, according to Dr. Jeffrey Frazer, pediatric cardiologist at Cottage Children’s Medical Center.

“Healthy living can be easier than many people think,” he said. “We’ve all heard ‘Eat healthy,’ ‘Exercise,’ but sometimes translating that to our daily lives can seem difficult. We know we should make healthy choices, but healthy choices don’t have to mean that we only eat cabbage and run marathons.”

Cottage offers these heart-healthy tips:

  • Get active. It doesn’t matter if you like to walk, bicycle or dance; moving your body in any way will help improve your mood and lower your risk of heart disease.
  • If you have children, choose activities where you can exercise together. The American Heart Association recommends that kids exercise 60 minutes every day. Choose activities that children enjoy, including tag or other childhood games, going to the park or playing at the beach.
  • Have fruits and vegetables available. Put carrots in lunches instead of chips. Use apples instead of cookies. Making healthy choices is easier if healthy foods are available in the home. There are many heart-healthy recipes on the American Heart Association website.
  • Choose whole grains, which provide more fiber and can improve heart health. Whole wheat flour and brown rice are examples that can substitute in recipes.
  • Manage stress. Easier said than done, but try focusing on one thing at a time, making time for yourself with a walk, yoga, cranking some music, or even a deep breath or two to help yourself relax.