NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease can happen at any age. Half of all Americans have risk factors that endanger their health.

February is American Heart Month and a good time to learn about your risk, reports CBSN New York’s Natalie Duddridge.

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Dr. William Salerno, a cardiovascular disease specialist from Hackensack University Medical Center, has important advice on how to take care of your heart and specifically what tests you need to save your life.

The first American Heart Month, which took place in February 1964, was proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson via Proclamation 3566 on December 30, 1963.

There’s a definite gender bias when it comes to heart disease. Women go for mammograms every year but don’t think about heart disease yet for years it was the number one killer of women. New York and New Jersey are in the top 15 states where heart disease is the leading cause of death.

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For men, heart disease hits around 55, for women, more like 65. Women bring their husbands in for testing but don’t think about getting tested themselves.

Because women get so much radiation from other screenings, Salerno recommends women have heart ultrasounds that produce images of that can detect damage and disease

With heart disease still so prevalent in this country today, strategies for preventing heart disease and encourage people to live more heart-healthy lives can include small steps like:

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  • Encouraging families to use more spices instead of salt.
  • Motivating families, as well as schools, to make physical activity part of the day.
  • Floss regularly to remove plaque and bacteria from gums.
  • Screen for high blood pressure, which usually has no symptoms so it cannot be detected without being measured.
  • Test your cholesterol for both your LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, as your waist circumference or your BMI may put you at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and congestive heart failure.
  • Watch high blood sugar levels, which are a risk of developing diabetes which, left untreated, can lead to heart disease.

For more tips and information, see Hackensack Meridian Health’s website.