GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — February is Heart Health Month.

The heart is vital for life, which makes keeping it healthy a priority. 

Research proves that some of the risk factors that contribute to heart disease can be reduced.

Dr. Johannes Brechtken firmly believes that monitoring cholesterol is the key to keeping your heart healthy. 

"The link [between heart health and cholesterol] has been well established on multiple tryouts over decades," Dr. Brechtken said. "The main risk factor would be high cholesterol combined with a family history." 

A major factor that changes how cholesterol affects the body is gender. Men develop buildup in their arteries about 10 years earlier than women, according to Dr. Brechtken. 

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Despite knowing the risk and risk factors, there's not always a warning before a heart attack. 

Here are some common symptoms to be mindful of. 

"Chest discomfort, pressure, being short of breath that would occur at a certain level of exercise and would go away at rest. That would be very typical." Dr. Brechtken said.

A common test for heart health is the Calcium Score Test. 

"It [the test] does not determine if there's a blockage or not," Dr. Brechtken said. "The higher the score gets the more likely there is a legion that might be an issue."

Unless instructed by your doctor, there's no urgency to get to test until your mid-40s. Dr. Brechtken says he never recommends anyone gets the test until they are older than 45. 

But remember what the doctor says...what you don't know might hurt you. 

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