27.02.2024 Health & Fitness

February is Heart Healthy Month

By Dr. Barbara Entsuah (Med). Family Medicine.
February is Heart Healthy Month
27.02.2024 LISTEN

February is known as Heart Healthy Month and also as Chocolate Month in some places; it is also when Valentine Day is celebrated with flowers, chocolate and lingerie gifts. In this month, women are “to listen to their hearts and speak up for their health”. In Women in high resource countries, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death, it is not just a disease of men. In sub Saharan Africa, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the highest cause of death in adults over the age of 45.

There are known risk factors for heart disease and below are some of them:


High BP is a major risk factor and it is known as Hypertension (HTN). To reduce the effect of this risk, one has to check BP regularly after the age of 21 years. The new normal BP is less than 120/80 and 140/90 is regarded as Stage 2 Hypertension now. Stage 1 Hypertension is between the two numbers. Life style changes: like exercising/physical activity at least 3 days of the week, eating healthy as described below and weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight/BMI are all encouraged. Controlling Hypertension with Medication(s) is very important and since it is a chronic condition, one does not stop taking their BP medications without consulting your health care provider. Aiming for BP readings less than 130/80 is ideal for most people on medications, especially those with Diabetes, Kidney disease or Coronary Artery Disease (abnormality in vessels supplying the heart). When BP is between 130-139/80-89, depending on your risk factors you may be prescribed lifestyle changes or started on medications.

High total cholesterol levels lead to build up of fatty particles in the blood vessels, causing the heart to work harder to push blood along. There are different kinds of cholesterol but pay attention to your LDL (Lousy) cholesterol.

One is at a higher risk for Heart disease or Stroke if one has Diabetes Mellitus. Make sure DM is well controlled and ask your doctor about newer medications which control not only DM, but heart and kidney diseases as well as weight loss at the same time.

Maintaining a healthy weight and a BMI of 25 or less is highly recommended. Life style changes, medications and weight loss surgery are some of the ways used to help people

Unhealthy foods including frequent fast foods, excessive fatty foods, and sugary drinks, increase other risk factors mentioned above, and so eating healthy foods reduces your risk of heart disease. Portion control is necessary and using a small plate or bowl helps with this. Eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables coupled with reduction of starches or carbohydrates is helpful. Limiting salt in the diet with no added salt to already cooked foods is important especially in Black individuals. Healthy proteins, mainly plant based ones, following a diet called the DASH Diet (google it) helps with BP, while Mediterranean Diet helps with Obesity, Diabetes, Heart and Blood vessel diseases, Stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease, increased longevity, and healthy aging. In addition, eating more plant based Protein foods like nuts (including nut pastes) and seeds – e.g. Pumpkin, Melon, and Sesame, Legumes and Beans – all beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, tofu, soyabeans, are recommended together with leafy greens like spinach and green leaves. Animal based proteins like fish, chicken (Skinless), eggs, low fat dairy, are healthy, but one should cut back on red meat, (beef and pork), sugars, alcohol, and processed foods.

If hardening/blockage of the arteries of the heart (coronary artery disease) runs in your family- e.g., if father, brother, mother, or sister has had this especially at age of less than 50 years, then you may be at increased risk and so take charge of your heart and work on reducing other risk factors.

Men are at a higher risk for Cardiovascular disease and women after menopause have higher risk than Premenopausal women. Any person older than 50 years is also at high risk. Chronic stress, negative mental and psychologic health and even social isolation increase risk of Heart Disease.

Smoking is a high risk factor causing cholesterol to line the blood vessels of the heart and cause narrowing of the blood vessels.


Lowering of all modifiable risk factors through life style changes discussed above and taking medications when needed all help in lowering the risk for heart disease. Maintain positive mental health including social interaction with friends. Your health is in your hands, and you may need to make an appointment with your health care provider (even when you are not having any symptoms) to discuss screening for Cardiovascular disease. Blood work/labs, ECG, or Ultrasound of your heart (Echo) may be ordered depending on your personal risk factors. Take Charge of your health.

Share this with your friends and family. Heart and Vascular Diseases kill and disable many. Do not be a victim of this.