Heart disease wears the crown as the #1 cause of death among women. February is American Heart Month, a time to reflect on heart health.

Let’s explore things every woman should know about keeping the heart healthy.

Get the Heart Rate Up 

In order to keep the heart strong, you must raise the heart rate. The American Heart Society recommends that each week you do either 150 minutes of moderate activity (e.g., brisk walk) or 75 minutes of strenuous activity (e.g., jog) plus strength training. Always work to decrease the amount of time you spend sitting.

Not Exercising Is Deadlier Than Smoking

Think you’re doing enough during the day to forego exercising? A massive 23-year study recently completed by the Cleveland Clinic showed that those living a sedentary lifestyle have a 500% higher risk of death than a person who exercises regularly. Smoking is definitely bad. But it only increases mortality by 300%.

It’s Never Too Late

The great news is that as long as you’re still breathing, it’s not too late to reverse heart disease. Take these five heart-healthy steps:

  1. Focus on eating more heart-healthy foods like those containing good fats and fiber. 
  2. Eat fewer foods high in sugar, sodium and saturated fats, which includes most processed foods
  3. Manage stress
  4. Get the recommended amount of exercise (above)
  5. Quit smoking, if needed

Never stop taking prescribed medication because even though you’ll start feeling better almost instantly, it takes months to reverse heart damage caused by an unhealthy lifestyle and some damages won’t be reversible. The sooner you start the better. These five steps put you on your way to a healthier heart.