Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death across the globe, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. February is National Heart Month, a time to stop and evaluate the true state of your health, and to make any changes necessary to ensure you are reducing your risk of stroke, hypertension, heart attack and heart disease. Every 90 seconds someone in the U.S. dies from heart disease. The statistics are staggering, but there are practical, tangible steps you can integrate into your daily routine to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

These tips can help you regulate your chances of keeping cardiovascular complications at a minimum:

■    Quit smoking or using tobacco – The use of tobacco is one of the leading causes of heart problems. Nicotine makes the heart work harder, and carbon monoxide decreases the amount of oxygen in your blood. Within one year of quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease decreases significantly.

■    Exercise – It is recommended that you exercise for at least 30 minutes a day to reduce the risk of heart disease. Exercise will help control your weight, which will reduce the strain on your heart.

■    Eat Well – Saturated fat and trans fat can increase the risk of coronary artery disease by raising cholesterol levels. These fats can be found in red meat, dairy products, coconut oil, fried foods, packaged foods, margarine and certain bakery products. In addition to reducing these foods, you should also increase your vegetable and fruit intake.

■    Maintain a Healthy Weight – If you have excess weight, it puts a strain on your heart and increases your chances of high blood pressure and cholesterol. One of the ways to check your weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI.) Taking into consideration your height and weight, a reading of 25 or more indicates that you are overweight. Another option to see if you are at a healthy weight is to measure your waistline. For women, being overweight means that you have a waistline of 35 inches or more, and for men, it means having a waistline of 40 inches or more.

■    Get Health Screenings – Undergo regular blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol screenings to track how you are maintaining your health. Ask your doctor for recommendations on how often you should screen your health.

VNA2VNA Home Health has been caring for patients across Brevard County since 2000. A nonprofit home health agency, the VNA provides care for patients in the comfort of their own home, and offers several no-cost community health screenings throughout Brevard and Indian River counties. Each month, registered nurses from the VNA are scheduled at convenient public locations where community members can have their blood pressure and blood sugar checked regularly, at no cost.

Local Brevard County Internist, Dr. Balaji, specializes in cardiac diseases like hypertension and heart disease. He is passionate about informing and educating the public about the dangers of what are becoming increasingly more common diagnoses. “Hypertension is a very common medical condition and despite it being very common, the awareness and control of this condition remains low. Studies have shown that controlling hypertension will lead to increased longevity. In order to achieve longevity, often a multidisciplinary team approach is necessary,” said Dr. Balaji.

If you feel you may be at risk for heart disease, it is important to form a care team and implement best practices to keep your risk of cardiovascular diseases low. Attending regularly scheduled check-ups, balancing a healthy diet with exercise, limiting sodium intake and taking prescribed medications to manage issues like hypertension will prolong a healthier life. Regular blood pressure checks are essential in preventing heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. Patients can perform regular blood pressure checks at home in between doctor visits, or visit no-cost community clinics like VNA Space Coast provides.

The global statistics surrounding cardiovascular diseases can seem overwhelming. It is possible to make changes today that can prolong your life, and the lives of those you love. Promoting heart health this February could be the life-changing factor some patients need. To learn more about how VNA Home Health can help keep you and your loved ones heart healthy, visit them online at