JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va., Feb. 26, 2019 -- The human heart beats 72 times per minute; 100,000 times per day; and 3,600,000 times per year. The heart will beat about 2.5 billion times over an average lifetime transporting essential elements from oxygen, fuel, hormones and essential cells throughout the body.February is American Heart Month and it is appropriate that we learn more about what we can do for our own hearts and, perhaps, for others so they are as healthy as they can be.While heart disease is documented by the American Heart Association as the leading cause of death in the United States, the good news is, preventing it is within an acceptable level of control.Although there are several preventable risk factors that can decrease the risk of heart disease, including inactivity, obesity, tobacco use, and uncontrolled hypertension, the Center for Disease Control's focus for 2019 is blood cholesterol.High blood cholesterol effects one in three Americans and is a major risk for stroke, yet many don't know they have it.There are two different types of cholesterol that play a role in heart health and heart disease:* Blood cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver. Blood cholesterol is essential for good health. An individual's body needs it to perform important jobs, such as making hormones and digesting fatty foods. The body makes all the blood cholesterol it needs, which is why experts recommend that people eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while on a healthy eating plan.* Dietary cholesterol is found in animal foods, including meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Strong evidence shows eating patterns that include less dietary cholesterol are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, but a person's overall risk depends on many factors."The best way to avoid high cholesterol and promote heart health is to eat a well-balanced diet of mostly fruits and vegetables, leaner meats, and avoiding too many sweets." says U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joseph Yancey, McDonald Army Health Center clinical services deputy commander and Family Health physician.Steps to manage cholesterol today include:* Make healthy eating choices* Maintain a healthy weight* Get regular physical activity* Quit smoking* Limit alcoholThe heart has a big job to do and a healthy heart plays a huge role in overall health. Some of the best ways to prevent high blood cholesterol is controlling dietary habits."Small changes over time really do make a difference in your health," said Mary Rewinski, McDonald Army Health Center registered dietitian. "Making healthier food choices and adding even small amounts of exercise will help lower blood pressure and improve blood cholesterol numbers. There is no magic bullet. It takes consistent effort, but not perfection."Personnel can explore web resources such as www.choosemyplate.gov to view resources, including the following tips:* Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole-grains* Select lean meats, chicken and turkey breast (without skin) and fish* Choose 1% fat milk and non-fat yogurt and limit cheese* Use low-fat cooking methods: bake, roast, broil, grill, or steam* Limit dining out (fast food, take-out food and full-service restaurants) to once per week* Avoid high sugar beverages and limit sweets* Cut-back on salt, high-sodium seasonings and processed foodsService members, retirees, civilian employees and families are encouraged to take small steps and build overtime, rather than drastic changes at once, to successfully make a healthy change. For specific guidance on heart health, contact your health care provider.