Spotlighting Cardiovascular Health: It's American Heart Month
Conveniently placed in the month of Valentine’s Day, where our hearts are at the forefront of our minds, February is American heart month.
This national awareness month was first declared by President Lyndon B. Johnson back in 1964 to tackle the heart disease crisis in America. You can observe the month by educating yourself about the facts and checking your own heart health.
American Heart Month Facts
The term “heart disease” doesn’t refer to one medical condition. It is an all-encompassing term for a variety of cardiovascular diseases that affect the function of the heart. The most common type is coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack and, ultimately, heart failure.
It’s important to be aware of how big the issue is. Here are the staggering facts, according to the CDC.
- One in four deaths in America is due to heart disease. That makes it the leading cause of death for both men and women, with over 655,000 deaths every year.
- Coronary artery disease (CAD) is responsible for more than half of these annual deaths. An estimated 18.2 million people over the age of 20 have CAD.
- While heart disease poses risks to your health long term, by far the most lethal one is the increased risk of a heart attack. In the US, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds.
This puts a huge strain on healthcare services. It’s estimated that around $219 billion a year is spent on healthcare, medicines, and loss of productivity related to heart disease. The most worrying thing about all of this is that for many of us, heart disease is preventable. It is largely related to lifestyle choices.
This isn’t to say all heart disease is a result of lifestyle. Many heart diseases are genetic or present at birth. However, for many Americans, they can reduce their risk of heart disease with some simple changes.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the following lifestyle choices and medical conditions put you at higher risk for heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- Poor diet
- High cholesterol
- Excessive alcohol consumption
For smokers particularly, the risks are high. Stopping smoking offers a range of health benefits, from reducing your risk of cancer to lowering your risk of heart disease.
High blood pressure is often linked to other lifestyle choices, such as being overweight. You can reduce your blood pressure with regular exercise and by eating a healthy diet. This includes limiting your alcohol use and cutting down on caffeine.
Similarly, high cholesterol can be lowered by losing weight and eating a heart-healthy diet. This would include lots of low fat and wholegrain foods, as well as plenty of vegetables and fruit.
One of the best ways to lower your risk of heart disease is by engaging in a minimum of 20 minutes of physical exercise every day.
Know the Signs of a Heart Attack
The early symptoms of a heart attack can differ, but they may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or discomfort for longer than a few minutes
- Weakness or lightheadedness
- Nausea or a cold sweat
- Pain in the jaw, neck, back, arms, or shoulder
Call 911 or head to an emergency room immediately if you suspect a heart attack.
Look After Yourself
The best way to observe American heart month is to start taking better care of your heart and convince your loved ones to do the same. This can reduce your risk of heart disease and a heart attack significantly.
But if you think you, or someone you love, might be having a heart attack, the best place for them is the emergency room in Corpus Christi. Physicians Premier is a freestanding emergency room where patients could receive immediate care that is both high-quality and convenient.
“Heart Disease Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 Sept. 2020, www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
“Heart-Healthy Living.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-living