February is Heart Health Month. As you’re thinking about your sweetheart or candy hearts, take time to think about your own heart.

Your Keck Medicine of USC physician can help you assess your risk factors and develop a plan to keep your heart healthy and strong. By working with the experts of the USC CardioVascular Thoracic Institute, you have access to collaborative cardiac care and groundbreaking treatments and therapies.

Heart health is more than just diet. Age, exercise, drug and alcohol consumption, smoking and stress all play a role. But taking relatively simple steps can improve your health and reduce your risks. The American Heart Association recommends four actions for better heart health:

Eat smart

Eating smart doesn’t have to mean a restrictive diet that makes you miserable. Rather, healthy eating is about balance – more vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains with fewer sugary drinks, fatty or processed meats, sweets, salt and highly processed foods. Stock your kitchen with healthier options and experiment with fresh foods.

Add color

Take a look at your plate before you eat. Is it a rainbow of colors – or shades of beige? Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are chock-full of the nutrients your body craves. Try to add an extra color to every meal – whether it’s a serving of greens, some bright blueberries, fresh carrots or yellow squash. Even a handful of frozen veggies can add a pop of color – and nutrition – to your meal.

Be active

A little more movement can make your heart a lot healthier. Start small – just 150 active minutes a week is a good initial goal. Try new activities, from biking or jogging to yoga or playing with your kids. Find a friend who also wants to be more active and encourage each other. Make it a family affair with an after-dinner walk or playing tag in the backyard.

Be well

Research shows that stress, sleep and social connections all impact heart health. Pursue activities that help keep you grounded and centered, whether it’s mindful meditation, yoga, journaling, exercise or a hobby. And make sure to get plenty of shut-eye and water.

Heart disease takes many forms, from coronary artery disease and arrhythmias to high cholesterol and heart attack – and is the leading cause of death among adults in the U.S. killing about 1 million people each year. Fortunately, heart disease can be largely preventable.

Make an appointment

Your Keck Medicine of USC physician can determine your heart health by assessing your cholesterol, blood pressure and other factors. Request an appointment or call (800) USC-CARE to take charge of your heart health.