The following editorial appeared in the Valdosta (Georgia) Daily Times, a CNHI newspaper. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tribune-Democrat.

February is the month for Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is all about romance.

Romantic love is metaphorically and historically connected to the heart.

Ergo February is American Heart Month.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., by far.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases are the top three killers.

In recent years, CDC data breaks down the number of deaths in a single year this way:

• Heart disease: 614,348

• Cancer: 591,699

• Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 147,101

• Accidents (unintentional injuries): 136,053

• Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 133,103

• Alzheimer’s disease: 93,541

• Diabetes: 76,488

• Influenza and pneumonia: 55,227

• Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 48,146

• Intentional self-harm (suicide): 42,773

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

One in four deaths is caused by heart disease, according to the CDC.

In conjunction with American Heart Month, we are touting the importance of making healthy choices, working with doctors and health-care professionals to reduce the risks.

The CDC recommends:

• Schedule a visit with a doctor to talk about heart health. Regular checkups are an important part of health management, even if you don’t think you’re sick. Talk with your doctor and set goals for improving heart health. Be honest with them about your health and habits and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

• Add exercise to your daily routine. If you don’t currently exercise, start small. Walk 15 minutes a day a few times a week. After a couple of weeks, bump it up to 30 minutes a day a few times a week.

• Quit smoking. If you currently smoke, quitting can cut your risk for heart disease and stroke. Kicking the smoking habit, like starting an exercise routine, is something that’s done a step at a time.

• Eat healthy. Eating healthy is one of the surest steps you can take to heart health. Cook heart healthy meals at home at least three times a week and reduce the sodium content of your recipes.

• Take prescribed medication. Talk with your doctor about high blood pressure and cholesterol medications. Take any prescribed medications on time as directed. If any side effects develop, contact your doctor for help.

We encourage our readers to develop healthy habits and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Staying healthy – living with a heart-healthy lifestyle each day – is much easier than “getting healthy” and overcoming a lifetime of bad habits.

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