Atusa Baghery: It is Heart Month |

Atusa Baghery: It is Heart Month

We are seeing many red hearts these days because Valentine's Day is around the corner, but did you know that February is also American Heart Month? The best gift you can give your loved ones and yourself is loving care toward your heart.

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is the leading cause of death in our country — it caused more than one in four deaths in the U.S. in 2007. The risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, tobacco use and family history. A recent study found that children as young as 9 who had these risk factors — especially obesity — already show a higher risk of developing heart disease as adults. The data is scary — one in three children are overweight or obese. Scientifically speaking, genetics or family history is not to blame for the large increase in obesity. We must teach kids healthy lifestyle habits now to prevent obesity and heart disease.

There is good news. Eating fruits and vegetables can protect people from developing heart disease. Yet another reason to encourage your family to eat a more healthy and nutritious diet. And it is well known that exercise helps reduce or eliminate many heart disease risk factors. Benefits include weight loss, lower blood pressure and better cholesterol measures.

A healthy lifestyle matters, so instead of eating that box of chocolates, go for a walk and grab a red apple or a handful of strawberries, and make sure your kids join in on the fun. Other tips:

■ Spend less time watching TV and more time cooking healthy meals with your kids.

■ Make sure your kids eat nutritious meals at school that are low in fat, calories and sugar. Encourage them to drink water, not sugary beverages.

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■ If you and your kids do not get the physical activity you need at work and school, have fun at home in ways that get you moving such as going for walks, playing tag, playing in the snow or creating obstacle courses.

To celebrate American Heart Month, make an appointment for yourself and your loved ones (18 and older) at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association for a free cardiovascular screening. Call Vicki at 970-875-1883 in Steamboat or Eveline at 970-824-7658 in Craig.

Atusa Baghery, MPH

Community health educator, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

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