The Westchester County Department of Health encourages residents to join National Wear Red Day this Friday, to promote awareness of heart disease prevention strategies and American Heart Month, both programs of the American Heart Association.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in Westchester County, and nationwide. Although men are more likely to be diagnosed with heart attacks, women have a higher death rate from heart attacks than men. While chest pain or discomfort is the most common universal symptom, women are more likely than men to experience symptoms that can be misunderstood, such as shortness of breath, nausea, back or jaw pain.

The Westchester County Department of Health encourages residents to reduce their risk of heart disease and improve their health through exercise, healthier eating and by avoiding tobacco products, including those that are vaped. Risk factors that can be managed include high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, lack of regular physical activity, obesity, being overweight and Type 2 diabetes. 

Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD, said: “Make small, measurable changes today to improve your health. Invite supportive family and friends to join you on this journey. As these changes become healthier habits, set the bar higher. Over time, small changes can add up to meaningful improvements in your health.”

Here’s how:

  • Move more– make time for 30 minutes of physical activity most days. Walk indoors or out; take the stairs; move along with free exercise videos available online, take an exercise class or join a gym.
  • Eat healthier to reduce your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. Satisfy your hunger with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy and poultry, fish and unsalted nuts. Boost flavor with herbs, garlic, onions and spices instead of salt, butter or fat. Reduce your use of packaged foods and choose those that are low in sodium, salt, sugar and sweeteners. Limit sweets, red meat and sugary drinks to an occasional treat.
  • Know your numbers – Be aware of your blood pressure reading, cholesterol count and lipid profile. Have these checked at an annual physical. If the results are higher than recommended, ask your doctor to suggest lifestyle changes that can help. Learn more about heart healthy numbers at the Westchester County Department of Health website. More information also is available at the American Heart Association Wear Red Day website.
  • Residents can check out a blood pressure monitor at the Yonkers Riverfront Library, 1 Larkin Center and can use them at the Theodore D. Young Community Center, 32 Manhattan Ave. in Greenburgh. Nurses also offer free blood pressure checks at the Lifting Up Westchester Community Kitchen on Wednesdays, and in the Grace Church Parish Hall at 33 Church Street, White Plains.
  • Avoid tobacco products – Smoking causes one in every three deaths from cardiovascular disease. It also causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. E-cigarettes that contain THC have been linked to lung injuries and deaths. A study of high school seniors who had never smoked found that those who vaped were four times as likely to report recent smoking during follow-up.
  • Limit alcohol – Adults should limit their alcohol consumption because excess drinking can raise blood pressure levels and the risk for heart disease, and can also increases levels of triglycerides, which can harden your arteries.