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February 15, 2013

Maintaining heart health is a year-round job

Heart deaths spike in winter but a healthy lifestyle is your best defense

Researchers at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles have found that heart attack deaths are 36 percent higher during the winter months than in the summer. Just why is not exactly clear.

Researchers had always assumed the increase in winter heart attacks was due to over-exertions during cold weather activities, like shoveling snow. But this latest research shows a similar death rate in warm climates as well as cold.

Your best defense is a healthy heart all year round and in nearly every case, the power to improve heart health rests with the individual.

“When I tell people that almost 80 percent of heart disease is preventable, they are surprised,” said Mayo Clinic cardiologist Martha Grogan, M.D., medical editor-in-chief of Mayo Clinic Healthy Heart for Life. “Better yet, there are daily things we all can do that can make a big difference in our effort to keep our hearts healthy.”

Move it

Grogan encourages people to move 10 extra minutes each day. A sedentary lifestyle may increase your risk of heart attack almost as much as smoking does, recent studies show. Movement, she says, provides a significant pay-off.

“Moving even 10 minutes a day for someone who’s been sedentary may reduce the risk for heart disease by 50 percent,” Grogan said.

Getting a adequate sleep is also important since it reduces the chances of obesity and high blood pressure, two major risk factors for heart disease. For women, the risks are especially high.

“The latest American Heart Association statistics reveal that heart disease is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined, killing one woman every minute,” said Liliana Cohen, MD, a board-certified cardiologist with The Robert Wood Johnson Medical Group. “Yet, these same studies show that relatively few women believe that heart disease is their greatest health threat.”

Women at risk

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