February is American Heart Month. We should not only take time to focus on those whom we hold close to our hearts for Valentine’s Day, but we should also take time to focus on our overall heart health (and ways to maintain it). Taking care of yourself can lead to a longer, healthier life.

There are seven simple steps that research has shown can make a difference. Each involves making good choices and require some discipline, but all are doable. Dubbed “Life’s Simple 7” by the American Heart Association, they involve:

  • Eating better, which can stave off chronic disease. Steps include increasing your intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight because this can reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and bones.
  • Exercising, which can help with your cholesterol levels, weight and muscle tone.
  • Quitting cigarettes because even one can hurt you.
  • Managing blood pressure. Unhealthy ranges strain the heart, arteries and kidneys.
  • Controlling cholesterol to give your arteries the best chance to stay clear of fatty blockages that reduce blood flow.
  • Reducing blood sugar. This can lower the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
February Education