They say true love starts with a kiss. That may be accurate, but I would argue that the key to lasting love is to have a true heart-to-heart conversation about American Heart Month with your nearest and dearest.

A poem to start the conversation off might go something like this:

Roses are red
violets aren’t pink,
heart attacks kill more people
than you might think.

Each year, heart disease steals more loved ones than any other illness in the U.S. and high blood pressure carries a particularly concerning degree of infamy in this regard. Hypertension alone, a leading risk factor for heart disease, silently chips away at heart health over years, taking many of our loved ones too soon. According to the CDC, 655,000 American die of heart disease each year – that’s one out of every four deaths.

Remarkably, cardiovascular disease is very treatable with lifestyle and medication when indicated. Nearly half (47%) of American adults have at least one of three risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking) for cardiovascular disease, yet a disproportionate number do not know they have it and go without treatment. Most importantly, hypertension is one of the most preventable diseases we treat in health care. Hypertension and a few other key “diseases of lifestyle” fuel the flames of inflammation damaging blood vessels in every organ of the body. The heart which goes pitter, patter when you think of the one you love is especially vulnerable.

This tragic love story does not have to have an unhappy ending. Much can be done to prevent and reverse heart disease, but, as is true in any loving relationship, it takes two. February is Heart Health month. What better way to show someone you love them than to have a conversation that comes from the heart? Discussing our habits – good and bad – with those you hold close to your heart may allow you to keep that flame burning longer.

  • Create a little spark by lighting up your last cigarette. Stopping smoking is the single most important health choice you can make when it comes to heart attack prevention.
  • Switch out that salt-laden romantic dinner for two for a green smoothie packed with superfoods. According to HHS, Americans eat too much salt and not enough fruits and vegetables. Excess salt intake is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease.
  • Keep chasing each other around…the block. Exercise is the fountain of youth. Only 22.9% of Americans – fewer than 1 in 4 – meet the nation’s recommend exercise guidelines.
  • Show your Valentine how much you love them and schedule ‘His & Hers’ blood pressure checks with your primary care doctor to better understand your risks and learn things you can do to prevent it.

To learn more about simple things you can do to avoid the heart break of heart disease do more than flirt with these resources:

Maintaining a long healthy relationship and life isn’t always a bed of roses, but it doesn’t take much to turn the tide on unhealthy habits. Meaningful lifestyle change starts with a conversation. It’s time to make your move!

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