February is American Heart Month, and this year the focus is on the impact of high blood cholesterol on heart disease. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 deaths in the United States is due to heart disease, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women.

Keep your heart as healthy as possible by taking the following steps.

1. Get regular health screenings. Whether or not you have a family history of heart disease, it’s important to make heart health a priority. This includes regular blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar screenings, among other things. Has it been a while since your last check-up? Go ahead and schedule one, even if you feel completely healthy. If you’re looking for a new doctor, or would like to see a specialist about your heart, Better Health Advisors can help.

2. Quit smoking, and if drink alcohol, do so in moderation. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage your heart and blood vessels, causing atherosclerosis, which increases your risk of heart disease. There is some evidence that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may protect your heart from the risks of coronary artery disease (the most common type of heart disease), but drinking large amounts of alcohol over time or drinking too much at once can put your heart at risk.

3. Eat right. Stick to heart-healthy foods. Some foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help protect your heart. On the other hand, too much salt, sugar, saturated fat, and trans fat can be unhealthy. We recommend seeing a nutritionist about the best food plan for your body and activity level.

4. Talk to a health advisor about your health and your family’s health history. One of the major risk factors for heart disease is having a blood relative with heart disease. This risk is even more pronounced if you have a parent who developed heart disease at a young age.

5. Move your body. If you are overweight you may be more at risk of heart disease. The heart is a muscle, and to keep it healthy, you’ve got to exercise. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of the two—but shorter amounts are still helpful. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy, and stick with it. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new fitness program.

6. Relax. Meditate. Go for a walk. Spend time with friends. Take a few deep breaths. Stress is often a risk factor for heart disease, according to a publication from Harvard Medical School, so make time for activities that lower your stress level.

To learn more about your own risk factors and the best steps you can take to protect your heart, reach out to Better Health Advisors.

Want to help protect the heart of someone you love? Forward them this message.