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Healthy Heart Monday


February is National Heart Health Month. Coronary heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the world. In the United States, coronary heart disease causes more than a quarter of all deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC). Moreover, it is estimated that heart disease cost the U.S. more than $316 billion in 2010 alone.

The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). These two terms are often used interchangeably. When inflammatory plaques-- thought to be caused from smoking, high blood pressure, or dysregulated fat, sugar, or cholesterol levels in the blood--form inside of one's arteries, they may rupture and block the amount of blood that can flow to the heart. As a result, a heart attack can occur. Each year, Americans experience more than 1.2 million heart attacks.

Despite these grim statistics, the good news is that heart disease is largely preventable. Ways to prevent heart disease include the following:

  • Eat a healthy diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans, fish and lean meats, and low-fat dairy
  • Exercise regularly (to improve blood flow, increase HDL “good” cholesterol, and maintain healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels)
  • Reduce sodium intake (to control blood pressure)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Consume alcohol only in moderation
  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Those at an increased risk for heart disease include men over the age of 45, women over the age of 55, those with a family history of heart disease, and people who smoke, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. If one or more of these risk factors apply to you, be sure to monitor your cholesterol levels and blood pressure regularly, manage your diabetes (if applicable), and consider contacting your doctor to see if taking aspirin every day would be appropriate.

Find out your own heart health status by taking the assessment at: For more information on heart disease, go to,, or

Every Monday, the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.