STATEPOINT   –  February is American Heart Month, and an excellent reminder that there are many easy steps you can take to improve your heart health.Unfortunately, nearly half of all U.S. adults are living with high blood pressure, putting them at an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).

“During American Heart Month, we urge all Americans to take control of their heart health by knowing and monitoring their blood pressure levels and making healthy lifestyle changes that can significantly reduce the serious health consequences associated with high blood pressure,” says Barbara L. McAneny, M.D., president of the AMA. “We know that by empowering more patients to monitor and control their blood pressure, we will continue to help improve the health of patients, while reducing health care costs.”

To help you get started, Dr. McAneny and the experts at the AMA are offering six tips for this American Heart Month and beyond.

1. Know your blood pressure numbers. Visit LowerYourHBP.org. The site contains tools, resources and information for both patients and physicians, and was launched by the AMA as part of an effort to reduce the number of Americans who have heart attacks and strokes each year. Having a better understanding of your numbers and taking necessary steps to get your high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, under control will reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.

2. Commit to manage high blood pressure. Work with your doctor to create an individualized treatment plan that includes healthy lifestyle changes that you can realistically stick to long-term to help you maintain a lower blood pressure and lower your risk for negative health consequences.

3. Be more physically active. Regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure. It is recommended that healthy adults 18 to 65 years of age get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity.

4. Eat a healthy diet. Making simple dietary changes can help you manage or prevent high blood pressure. These changes should include eating less sodium, reducing the amount of packaged and processed foods you consume (especially those with added sodium and sugar), reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and eating foods that are rich in potassium.

5. Maintain or achieve a healthy weight. Being overweight can put you at an increased risk for developing high blood pressure. Take steps to maintain a healthy weight.

6. Drink in moderation. When consuming alcohol, do so in moderation as defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans — up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, and only by adults of legal drinking age.

American Heart Month serves as an important reminder that living a heart-healthy lifestyle is possible. By paying attention to risk factors like your blood pressure, weight and more, you can reduce your risk for heart disease.

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