American Heart Month may be over as February comes to an end, but there’s still no better way to express love than to ensure you’re taking good care of your heart so you can welcome many more cherished years ahead.

Coronary heart disease (CAD) is the No. 1 killer in the United States, above all cancers. Although there are great advancements in CAD treatment and care, it remains the leading cause of death and is silent in its evolution.

“The first sign of cardiac disease is often the last,” says Kristy Gonder, M.S., RN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.

Fortunately, there are easy modifiable actions to minimize you risk, Gonder says. Incorporate a daily exercise regimen, maintain a desirable body weight based on age and gender, reduce high fat foods and consume more fruits and vegetables to help reduce cholesterol, and quit smoking if you do. Also, reduce stress as much as possible, for it makes the vascular system more vulnerable to injury.

“You have the power to make changes – you are not a victim,” Gonder says. “Love your heart, and love life. Enjoy a few of those chocolate candies and the sweetheart desserts, but remember the best way to say ‘I love you’ is to take care of the body part that relays that the most – your heart.”

— Marketing & Communications