JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about heart disease, learn strategies for preventing it, and encourage people to live healthy lives - both at home and in the community.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) - including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure-is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S. It is responsible for about 600,000 (or one in four) deaths a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is a leading cause of disability and costs the U.S. more than $300 billion each year - including health care, medication and lost productivity.

"It is very important for people understand the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, and ways to control them," said Capt. Paula Chamberlain, Naval Hospital (NH) Jacksonville's director for public health. "It has been proven that making healthy choices - such as good nutrition, weight management and exercise, along with better management of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes - can significantly decrease the probability of cardiovascular disease."

Some factors that put people at a higher risk for CVD are race, ethnicity, or having close relatives with heart disease. Other medical conditions and lifestyle choices that are controllable include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, poor diet and tobacco use.

NH Jacksonville recognizes American Heart Month and remains active in raising awareness to the nation's number one killer. Its Medical Home Port (MHP) teams - which place patients in the center of a collaborative team of caregivers - are dedicated not only to the patient's comprehensive care needs, but to prevention of diseases like CVD.

Patients are encouraged to visit their primary care managers to receive annual checkups - even if feeling healthy. Other recommendations for preventing CVD include monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol, managing diabetes, healthy dieting and weight management, regular exercise, quitting tobacco, limit alcohol use, take prescribed medications, and follow your treatment plan.

In addition, NH Jacksonville's Wellness Center offers a variety of health related classes, available to active duty, retirees and family members. Classes include Healthy Heart, which teaches healthy lifestyles and cholesterol and blood pressure management; Choose My Plate, to provide overviews on losing weight the healthy way; ShipShape, an eight-week weight loss program (active duty and civilians); Sail A Weigh, a six-week weight loss program (civilians only); health fitness assessments; and tobacco cessation, to assist smokers with quitting.

Spread the word about strategies for preventing this deadly disease and encourage people to live heart healthy lives.

NH Jacksonville's priority since its founding in 1941 is to heal the nation's heroes and their families. The command is comprised of the Navy's third largest hospital and five branch health clinics across Florida and Georgia. Of its patient population - about 163,000 active and retired Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Guardsmen and their families - about 70,000 are enrolled with a primary care manager and Medical Home Port team at one of its facilities. 

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