Raising awareness of chronic health conditions is one of the main goals of an individual who has been diagnosed with a chronic disease. The more that people know about the symptoms and causes of a chronic disease, the more they can focus on more preventative measures. Since many people suffer from multiple chronic conditions, any information that can either help to prevent or alleviate some of the symptoms of these conditions is valuable. For example, according to the Missouri Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) 2011 survey, 64.1% of Missourians with heart disease have also been diagnosed with arthritis. February is American Heart Month with the goal of spreading awareness about cardiovascular problems. Even though heart disease is both preventable and controllable, it is still the leading cause of death in men and women. If an individual has both heart disease and arthritis, the condition with symptoms that cause more immediate concern, in this case heart disease, often take precedent. We all have the time and opportunity to think more about overall ways to treat multiple health conditions now, as opposed to waiting until we are confronted with serious health crises.
The good news is small steps can be taken to help lead people to better heart health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing a tip a day throughout February that encourages healthy heart behaviors. They have also made a list of 8 things a person can do year round to help decrease their chances of suffering from heart disease:
- Eat a healthy diet. Healthy meal and snack choices can help prevent heart disease and the complications that come with it.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of heart disease.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help keep weight healthy as well as lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Monitor your blood pressure. Be sure to have this checked on a regular basis as high blood pressure often has no symptoms.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease.
- Limit alcohol use. Drinking too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure.
- Have your cholesterol checked. This should be done by your health care provider at least once every 5 years.
- Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels.
- Take your medicine. If you take medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.
These are just a few easy lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease. Besides organizations like the CDC, national initiatives like The Million Hearts campaign (whose goal is to help prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by the year 2017) also provides information and tools that you can utilize to get your heart in the best shape possible!