February is National Heart Health month, and heartfoundation.org encourages Americans to take control of their health by getting tested and monitoring their hearts.
Heartfoundation.org reported heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., killing nearly 787,000 people alone in 2011.
Some USM students are staying health conscious this month and offer some advice for a healthier lifestyle in college.
“To celebrate National Heart Health month I am striving to keep fit and workout as well as run a few miles every week to keep up my training for my upcoming half marathon,” said Alexis Jones, a senior USM public relations major. “I also plan to eat healthier foods such as apples and grapes to help with heart health and drink more water and juices to stay hydrated.”
“To keep a healthy heart I usually eat Cheerios, fruits and vegetables, and I also detox with lemon and lime water,” Jones said.
Joshua Polk, a junior double major in criminal justice and psychology at USM, just ran the Hot Chocolate 15k in Atlanta a week ago and is keeping an eye out for local races in Hattiesburg in February.
“I am going to celebrate National Heart Health month by continuing to run races and stay active. I generally eat salads instead of ice cream, grilled chicken rather than fried chicken, and wheat bread rather than white bread,” Polk said.
“My recommendation to students who are trying to become healthier would be to start being dedicated to health now. You will regret it if you wait until later, and motivation is difficult to maintain over longer periods of time. Stay motivated and actually do rather just say you are going to,” Polk said.
American Heart Association said stress management is also a major part of maintaining a healthy heart. Also, more research is needed to determine how stress contributes to heart disease — the leading killer of Americans.
But stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk: high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating. Some people may choose to drink too much alcohol or smoke cigarettes to ‘manage’ their chronic stress; however, these habits can increase blood pressure and may damage artery walls, according to the American Heart Association.
Also, those who stress constantly should look for stress management classes within their communities. They can be found at community colleges, rehab centers, therapy and local hospitals.
To prevent heart disease, follow a healthy diet, avoid smoking, lose weight, especially if one is overweight or obese and be physically active, according to National, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.