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Go Red for American Heart Month: Four fun ways to get heart-healthy with loved ones

February is a time for matters of the heart -- and that includes heart health. This month is American Heart Month, and groups like the American Heart Association want to get people talking about how to prevent heart disease, the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.

The risk of heart disease rises with age, especially after age 45 for men and age 55 for women. One in four Americans dies of heart disease, and it can run in families, so it is likely that you know someone who is at risk. While anyone with risk factors should be under a doctor’s care, you can help support your loved ones in getting and staying healthy by putting some fun into heart-healthy habits.

1. Organize a weekly family walk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) point out that regular exercise is one of the best ways to combat heart disease. Help get your loved ones in the habit and spend some quality time together by taking a weekly walk together.

2. Offer a few great “mocktails” at your next cocktail party.

The CDC also suggests that limiting alcohol use can help lower blood pressure, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Show friends and family that cocktail hour can be fun, delicious and heart-healthy by serving up some tasty alcohol-free cocktails.

3. Give a heart-healthy Valentine’s Day gift: a home blood pressure monitor.

Monitoring your blood pressure at home can save your life. Medical researchers agree that home blood pressure monitoring significantly impacts whether patients achieve and maintain healthy blood pressure levels. The American Heart Association recommends that anyone with risk factors for high blood pressure monitor blood pressure at home regularly, in addition to formal medical care.

4. Sign up for the Bay Area Heart Walk.

The next local Heart Walk, sponsored by the American Heart Association, is on September 16 in Redwood City. A number of other walks around the Bay Area follow in September and October. More information can be found on the American Heart Association website.

While heart health can be fun, it is still a serious topic that should be discussed as a family. Many of the risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are often symptomless, leading to an unexpected heart attack or stroke. Discussing heart disease with your family may also provide an opportunity to discuss the importance of advance health care directives. Advance health care directives can help reassure family members that in the event of a sudden health event, such as a heart attack, the wishes of each family member will be followed.

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