American Heart Month: Taking Stock of Your Heart Health

February is American Heart Month, which provides a great opportunity to discuss heart health. The heart is the most important organ, as it operates as the center of circulation for your body. Since it delivers nutrients, oxygen and ultimately powers your body, it’s important to take care of it! Here’s what you should know about your heart health during American Heart Month.

Understanding Heart Problems 

american heart monthAn important part of American Heart Month is raising awareness about common heart problems. A healthy heart is one of the most important parts of your body, but it’s not always easy to know if you have a problem. Heart disease can happen to anyone at any time, and there are a lot of different symptoms that might show that something is wrong. Let’s take a look.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

Coronary artery disease is a common heart disease that builds up over years. Your arteries are vessels in your heart that move oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body. However, with CAD, those arteries eventually get congested. But how?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when plaque (cholesterol) builds up in the arteries that supply blood to your heart. This can block blood flow to your heart and lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue. In the worst cases, this can even lead to heart attacks.

Mayo Clinic notes that factors like age, sex, high cholesterol, smoking, and genetics can all play a role in getting CAD.

High Blood Pressure

One of the most common heart problems is high blood pressure. High blood pressure can develop because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as not getting enough regular physical activity or regularly consuming high-sodium foods.  Other health conditions such as diabetes and obesity can also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure.

There are steps you can take to avoid high blood pressure. You can try to eliminate as much sodium from your diet. It’s recommended that you ingest less than 2,300mg of sodium a day (via the FDA). It’s also a good idea to exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, maintain a healthy weight, and manage stress.


If your heart beats too fast or too slow, the condition is known as arrhythmia.. Some types of arrhythmias are harmless (when it’s very infrequent, or when your heart rate naturally drops during sleep), while others can be life-threatening if they happen suddenly. According to the NHLBI, arrhythmia can lead to heart failure, stroke, and heart attack.

You can tackle this if you notice symptoms — which usually range from fatigue to dizziness to even fainting. Talking to a doctor and getting a hold of arrhythmia early is beneficial, as you can be prescribed medication to fix the issue.

Protecting Your Heart Health

As your heart functions as the center of your body’s performance, you need to take measures to ensure its optimal health. Here are some steps you can take.


Exercise is the key to a healthy heart. Working out regularly helps you feel better, look better and even live longer! It doesn’t have to be as rigorous as if you’re training for a triathlon; try starting small, with 30 minutes a day for 3 days a week. You can increase as needed.

We know gym memberships can be expensive, but you can exercise without equipment. Try going for long walks or jogs outside, or try bodyweight exercises like pushups and crunches to get your heart health up!


Diet is another important part in protecting your heart health. Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. Instead, choose foods that provide essential nutrients like vitamins, iron, protein, and healthy carbs. 

A healthy diet consists of whole grains, fruit, vegetables and other foods that are rich in nutrients. You can also eat low-fat dairy products, fish and lean meats, but be sure to check the nutrition facts before diving in.

And as mentioned before, reduce salt intake from your diet. Salt causes the body to retain water which increases blood pressure and makes blood vessels stiffer. If you have not been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) or high cholesterol, lowering the amount of sodium you consume may help lower your risk of developing these conditions later on in life.

Regular Checkups

Getting your health checked regularly is an important part of heart health. The medical provider will usually conduct tests that check for high blood pressure or high cholesterol — both of which put you at risk for heart disease over time. These tests include a physical exam; measurements of your height, weight and blood pressure; and can also include blood tests, imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans, and electrocardiograms (EKGs).

Celebrating American Heart Month at NAFC

At the NAFC, we understand not only the importance of heart health and taking steps to protect against heart issues, but we also recognize that not all people have the same access to affordable health care, medications and healthy foods. 

We are proud to work with Free and Charitable Clinics and Charitable Pharmacies throughout the United States to provide quality, equitable, and accessible healthcare and to build healthy communities through additional services such as access to healthy foods, exercise and cooking classes and more!

To learn more about the NAFC, please visit our website and get in touch with us!