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In the time it takes you to read the first few sentences of this column, someone in the United States will die from heart disease.

It’s an all-too-common occurrence, with one death from cardiovascular disease happening every 37 seconds nationwide, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s a scary statistic. But the good news is there’s plenty you can do to protect your heart and help change those odds. And since February is American Heart Month, there’s no better time than now to start taking control of your heart health.

Here are some things to consider:

What you eat. The American Heart Association recommends a diet that centers around fruits and veggies, low-fat dairy, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils. Overhauling how you eat can be tough, so think in terms of incremental change — adding fruit instead of chips here, trying a new heart-healthy recipe there. Try to eat out less, avoid added salt and steer clear of foods that are calorie-dense but nutrient-poor. You’ll reduce your risk, feel better and have more energy.

How much you move. Too many of us are too sedentary, especially during the cold winter months. But consistent physical activity is critical to your heart health, and it offers numerous additional benefits, as well. Launching into an exercise plan can be daunting, but keep in mind there’s help available — whether from a professional or a fitness-inclined friend or loved one. If you’re not sure where to start, simply take a walk. It’s free, easy and great for your heart. And remember every step counts — so if you can’t exercise for 30 minutes straight, consider breaking it up into a few minutes here and a few minutes there. Either way, you’re doing your heart good with every step.

Smoking. The recommendation here is simple — don’t smoke. Quitting can be more complicated, but your healthcare provider can help you access tools to quit, and quit for good. Nixing nicotine has a host of physical health benefits, and it’s good for your financial health, as well.

Your stress levels. Stress stresses the heart, so take steps to reduce yours. Identify stress triggers and do what you can to mitigate them, and consider incorporating tactics such as deep breathing and guided meditation. If your stress is severe, a mental health professional can help. Talk to your provider about ways to reduce stress.

Your family history. Although there’s nothing you can do about your genetic makeup, you can take a more informed approach to preventing heart disease if you know your family history. Your healthcare provider may order extra tests or recommend certain therapies if close family members have struggled with or died from heart disease. Do your research and communicate openly with your provider.

You can reduce your risk, and the time to start is now. Here’s to a heart-healthy February and lasting heart smart habits.

Stacie Murray is a Master of Physician Assistant Studies, Physician Assistant-Certified at Bellin Health in Daggett.