The heart is an amazing machine, and the American Heart Association (AHA) has designated February as American Heart Month to bring awareness to the steps you can take to keep it in top condition. So, there’s no better time than now to get smart about your heart. Protecting your heart can even help protect your brain, according to the AHA.
Identify your risk factors
Fitness begins with awareness. Cardiovascular disease–heart disease–is the leading cause of death for women and men in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Chest pain or a heart attack can happen when too much fat and cholesterol block blood flow to the heart.
Many factors increase your risk for heart disease, particularly:
- high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes,
- smoking, vaping and other tobacco use,
- being overweight or obese and
- not getting enough exercise.
To identify your risk factors, complete an online health risk assessment (HRA) through your Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) health plan–at no cost to yourself. The HRA can quickly show if you are at risk for things like heart attack, diabetes and stroke. After you finish answering the questions in the online HRA, you’ll get a personal action plan and recommendations to help you address any health risks your HRA has identified.
Schedule a checkup
Make an appointment with your doctor for a checkup–and work together to help achieve your heart healthy goal. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your diet and physical activity. Check on your blood pressure and cholesterol, heart rate, blood sugar and body mass index. Ask questions about your chances of developing heart disease and ways to lower your risk.
If you have not yet chosen a doctor, you can find one by clicking on your GBP health plan’s Find a Provider link below:
- HealthSelect of Texas® or Consumer Directed HealthSelectSM
- Community First Health Plans’ Find a Provider page
- Scott and White Health Plan’s Health Plan Provider search
Live well today for a healthier tomorrow!—the American Heart Association
Take action to lower your risks In addition to following your doctor’s recommendations, you can also make changes on your own that address your heart disease risk factors, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Consider taking the following common preventive measures to help keep your heart healthy:
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
- Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol and smoking.
- Use stress management techniques like deep breathing exercises to help reduce your blood pressure and heart rate.
If you’re ready to kick the tobacco habit, take advantage of the tobacco cessation programs and resources offered through your GBP health plan:
View the ERS Tobacco Policy and Certification to learn about state-mandated certification requirements for tobacco use and more resources to help you quit.
Source: ERS Update Express (February 2020)