If you've been considering taking steps to improve your health, February is a great time to get started.

Each February is recognized as American Heart Month, and offers a time to reflect and refocus on the importance of heart health.

Heart health is important for many reasons, especially in the U.S., where heart disease is the number one cause of death.

According to the American Heart Association:

• Heart disease kills more people than all forms of cancer combined.

• One person dies every 37 seconds in the U.S. from cardiovascular diseases.

• About 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year -- that's 1 in every 4 deaths.2,3

• Heart disease costs the United States about $219 billion each year from 2014 to 2015.3 This includes the cost of health care services, medicines, and lost productivity due to death.

• In the U.S., someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds.

• 83 percent believe that heart attacks can be prevented but aren't motivated to do anything.

• 72 percent of Americans don't consider themselves at risk for heart disease.

• And 58 percent put no effort into improving their heart health.

High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47 percent) have at least one of these three risk factors, which means it's likely either you or someone you love are at risk for heart disease.

Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including diabetes, overweight and obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use.

Many of these risk factors can be addressed through simple lifestyle changes like eating better, exercising more, limiting alcohol use and stopping smoking.

Some signs you may be at risk for heart disease include chest pain, tightness, pressure or discomfort; shortness of breath; pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms; pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back. Unfortunately, not everyone who is experiencing heart disease will show any of these symptoms. You may not be diagnosed until you experience a heart attack, stroke or heart failure.

This is why it's a great idea to take this month as an opportunity to make better lifestyle choices and visit a doctor if you have concerns about your hearth health.

February is the month of love. Take some time to practice some self love and make better choices for your health and your heart.

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