GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) February is American Heart Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

“The heart is one of those organs where, if it stops working, you’ve only got a few minutes before you’re dead,” said Scott Boileau, LPN at Upstate Cardiology.

Boileau is a nurse who studied hearts at one of Bon Secour’s cardiology offices.  

“The heart is the pump, but it moves the blood through all of the blood vessels which are throughout every square inch in your body- your brain, your lungs, your kidneys. It feeds the entire body. Nothing works right if you are not getting good blood flow,” explained Boileau.

According to Temple Health research, the hardest working muscle in our body beats more than 100,000 times per day.

When your health declines, your risk for stroke, heart attack, and heart failure greatly increased, according to the CDC.

Over the years, Boileau has seen patients with numerous heart conditions and diseases.

“Family genetics, history, is one of the main risk factors for heart disease of all kind- stroke, actual heart attacks, valve diseases, cardiomyopathy,” said Boileau.

Even though some factors are genetic, there are ways you can reduce your risk for heart disease.

“The big way to prevent or control heart disease is through healthy living. So, you are talking about getting a healthy diet and that means not a lot of fat, not a lot of cholesterol, not a lot of sugar, not a lot of salt,” said Boileau.

Healthy diet and exercise are two major ways that doctors said promote heart health.

“When it comes to exercise, just like with diet, it’s not like you have to go run six miles every day. You just have to get your heart pumping,” said Boileau. “Cardiovascular activity, that’s what we want. Get your heart pumping faster than it normally does—if that means dancing, swimming, gardening, walking, running, lifting weights, chasing grandkids, whatever. You just have to get your heart race faster.”

Doctors strongly discourage smoking and the use of tobacco products. They said the products, along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other factors can lead to heart challenges.

“In general, you may notice over time that you just don’t have the get up and go that you used to have. You run out of gas easier than you used to, you get short of breath easier than you used to, you get chest pain, pain in your jaw, pain running down your left arm, especially when they are in the middle of doing something,” said Boileau.

Doctors said your heart, just like any other muscle, needs work to stay strong.

As always, if you experience any of these conditions, doctors recommend seeking medical attention. If necessary, there are several ways to be tested for various heart diseases and conditions. Medical professionals recommend consulting with a doctor for the best treatment options if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned.

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