Even though February is the month we celebrate Valentine's Day, it's not all cards and flowers.
It's also American Heart Month, a time to consider our individual health and the health of our region, which isn't great.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Kentucky and ranks ninth in the country for most deaths from heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
While genetics play a role, a healthy lifestyle may help many avoid heart disease. For a heart-healthy lifestyle, we must avoid smoking, maintain a healthy weight, control blood sugar and cholesterol, treat high blood pressure, exercise regularly and get regular checkups.
Easier said than done, for sure, but we should make every effort.
Another factor to consider: COVID-19.
The American Heart Association points out the pandemic has negatively impacted our efforts to maintain good heart health, as an increased number of people have eaten poorly, consumed more alcohol and failed to exercise as much as normal.
Fear of contracting the coronavirus also has deterred some from seeking the medical attention they need. However, hospitals have proven to be the cleanest, safest places to be during the pandemic.
Lifestyle improvements take time, but now is a good time to put forth our best efforts to get healthier.
It's also a good time to review the signs of a heart attack. These are according to the CDC:
• Pain areas: in the area between shoulder blades, arm, chest, jaw, left arm or upper abdomen.
• Pain types: can be like a clenched fist in the chest.
• Pain circumstances: can occur during rest.
• Whole body: dizziness, fatigue, lightheadedness, clammy skin, cold sweat or sweating.
• Gastrointestinal: heartburn, indigestion, nausea or vomiting.
• Arm: discomfort or tightness.
• Neck: discomfort or tightness.
• Also common: anxiety, chest pressure, feeling of impending doom, palpitations, shortness of breath or shoulder discomfort.
Don't fear seeking medical attention if these signs occur, even during a pandemic.