It's a little late for the official Heart Health Month: February was over last week. But considering that so much of heart health comes from factors we can control, it's never too late for a few reminders.
"Heart month really never ends, because you gotta take care of your heart 365 days a year," noted Dr. Russell Stahl. He's Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Geisinger CMC in Scranton.
"What most people don't realize is that heart and vascular disease is the #1 risk to their hearts and well-being, men and women," said Dr. Stahl.
Common risk factors of heart disease include obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, and smoking.
Dr. Stahl and Registered Dietician Elizabeth McDonald say genetics plays a role, but your heart health is largely up to you. McDonald says about 35% of the people she sees are cardiac patients.
"Our area seems to be a large red meat consumption. I get hit with a lot of "wings" (questions). How often can I eat my wings? How often can I eat a steak?," Mc Donald notes.
She says the best way to start a heart healthy way of life is simply to cut back on red meat, and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
"The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish per week, and you want to aim for high omega 3 fatty acid fish. So, swordfish, tuna, salmon. Those will also help reduce your cholesterol," she said.
Other than the food part of heart health, the other two tips are ones you have no doubt heard before: exercise regularly, and quit smoking. Both steps to take to keep your heart going strong until next heart month.