American Heart Month: Celebrate A Healthy Heart this February!
Photo by Kristina Litvjak on Unsplash
February is known for Valentine’s day. But what you might not know is that February is also officially “American Heart Month”. Throughout February, organizations all over the country aim to raise awareness on heart disease and start as many people as possible on their journey to a healthy heart.
Heart disease is both preventable and controllable. Even so, it’s still the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. About 715,000 people have a heart attack in the United States every year. One out of every four deaths is a result of heart disease, a term that refers to several kinds of heart conditions. The most common condition is coronary heart disease, which occurs when plaque builds up in your arteries that supply blood to the heart. Coronary heart disease leads to heart attacks, heart failure, arrhythmias, and angina.
Overall, when you add up the steep prices of healthcare services, medications, and loss of productivity, heart disease costs the United States about $312.6 billion each year. Cardiovascular conditions are the leading cause of disability as well.
Lifestyle Steps for a Healthy Heart
By taking small measures to improve our heart health, we can help decrease these numbers and lower the vast amount of cardiovascular deaths in the US. Specific lifestyle factors can dramatically increase your risk of heart disease. Here are a few recommendations from the CDC on how to prevent heart-related conditions:
- Limit salt and sugar in your diet. These both lead to high blood pressure, which in turn leads to heart disease. You should restrict the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in your diet as well. A diet low in salt and sugar and high in fresh fruits and vegetables (5 servings per day for adults) can lower your blood pressure along with your risk of cardiovascular issues.
- Restrict smoking and drinking. Both tobacco and alcohol can drastically increase your risk of heart disease. If you’re a smoker, your chances of heart problems are two to four times higher than non-smokers. The risk increases the longer you smoke – for help quitting, visit www.smokefree.gov. When it comes to alcohol, the CDC recommends no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men and one for women – anything more than this heightens your blood pressure, ultimately leading to heart problems.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Regular exercise keeps your weight in check, your blood pressure low and your cholesterol at a healthy level. Adults should perform at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise on most days, as recommended by the surgeon general. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore – check out our blog on Fitness Trends for 2014 for some ideas on starting a new workout plan or switching up your current one. Adequate exercise will keep your weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) within normal range, lowering your risk of heart problems. If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight Website
- Manage chronic conditions. For those who have diabetes, it’s crucially important to monitor your blood sugar and discuss the most effective treatment options with your doctor. If you need to take medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, be sure to take it exactly as prescribed.
- Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s important to check your blood pressure regularly – high blood pressure often shows no symptoms at all. You can use a home blood pressure monitor or have it checked at a pharmacy or your doctor. As for your cholesterol, your doctor can test it with a simple blood test. Cholesterol levels should be tested every five years. Monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol is important to evaluate whether their levels will impact the health of your heart. For clarity, find out more about monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol below:
- CDC’s High Blood Pressure Website
- CDC’s High Cholesterol Website
5 Signs of a Possible Heart Attack
Despite prevention measures and raising awareness about heart disease, the number one cause of death in the United States, heart attacks still occur in 715,000 people each year. With immediate intervention though, you can save yourself or a loved one from a potentially fatal heart attack by knowing the signs. Here are the top five signs of a possible heart attack, according to the CDC:
- Unusual pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
- Feeling faint, weak or light-headed
- Chest pain and discomfort
- Pain in the arms and shoulders
- Shortness of breath
If you notice these symptoms in yourself or someone else, call 911 immediately – it could save a life.
Raise awareness for a healthy heart this February by doing one thing every day to reduce your risk of heart disease. Check out some great daily heart-health tips here: CDC’s Tips for a Healthy Heart
Read More from the CDC Here: American Heart Month