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On Tuesday, many of us will celebrate Valentine’s Day through the shape of hearts. A heart-shaped piece of chocolate, a box full of candies in a box shaped like a heart, a heart-shaped card.

While we showed our love for others with gifts shaped as hearts, during February we are reminded to take care of our physical hearts as we commemorate American Heart Month.

Locally, Hamilton Medical Center is among the groups encouraging people to focus on their cardiovascular health by providing free heart health assessments including cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure checks. Those screenings, as well as other health-related information, are available during several community events. For more information, check our website at daltondailycitizen.com.

The Whitfield Healthcare Foundation is also encouraging folks to focus on heart health by offering a Heart Month Guide for individuals, schools and businesses to get involved in heart month activities.

Why are these screenings so important? Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Here are several “self-care” for your heart tips from the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute:

• Get a daily dose of physical activity, such as a brisk, 30-minute walk.

• Cook meals that are low in sodium and unhealthy fats.

• Take your medications as prescribed and keep your medical appointments.

• Sleep seven to eight hours a night.

• Manage stress through, for example, meditation, yoga, a warm bath or quiet time with a good book or funny movie.

• Try to reach or stay at a healthy weight by moving more and having snacks like fruits and vegetables ready to grab when hunger hits.

• Part of self-care is knowing your health status. Even during uncertain and busy times, get your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked. Talk to your health care provider about your heart health.

We hope you take time this month to focus on your heart health, and make taking care of your heart something done year-round.

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