February is National Heart Month

Every day your heart beats around 100,000 times, making sure to keep blood moving through the blood vessels in your body and providing oxygen and nutrients to all your organs.1 For as strong as your heart can be there are many conditions that can affect its ability to do its job. During the month of February, we celebrate National Heart Month to help raise awareness on how to keep one of our most important muscles safe and healthy.

Risk of Cardiovascular Disease 

The health of our hearts is an important topic to tackle as both heart disease and stroke are the among some of the most widespread and costliest health problems in the United States today.2 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three deaths in the United States are due to cardiovascular disease. Also, about one in every six healthcare dollars is spent on cardiovascular disease.2 One of the more concerning conditions in cardiovascular health is stroke, a condition that is ranked number five among all causes of death in the United States, and number two worldwide.3 Conditions like these are why there is a National Heart Month, to bring more focus on cardiovascular disease and prevention. 

Studies have shown that there are certain qualities that may put a person at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than others. These life-style related risks include:3,4

  • Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Patients not following the recommended guidelines for aerobic physical activity
  • Poor quality of diet
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • High cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes 

Preventable Conditions 

While we can’t always control what happens with our health, like inheritable conditions, there are many heart conditions that may be prevented. The way to help your heart is to take charge today, before you have an issue. Some of the more dangerous diseases that can be prevented are:

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure. This when your heart is working harder to pump your blood through your arteries and other blood vessels. While it doesn’t always have symptoms, having high blood pressure can cause serious health conditions over time such as stroke, heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure.2
  • Coronary heart disease, or coronary artery disease. This caused by the buildup of plaque within your blood vessels. Plaque is caused by high levels of cholesterol, a fatty substance in your blood. However, not all fats in the blood are bad. HDL, or high density lipoproteins, is a fat in the blood that we know as “good” cholesterol.2
  • A heart attack. This is what happens when there is a sudden loss of blood to a portion of your heart. The condition is caused by a blockage, also known as an occlusion, in one or more of the oxygen-delivering arteries supplying the heart. Blockages can be created from pieces of plaque or a blood clot.2 

Illnesses like these may be prevented by making a variety of changes to your daily life. Not all of these changes have to be major. Sometimes the steps you take can be small, like talking a ten minute walk three times a day or by reading up on the different symptoms of a stroke or heart attack.5 Other steps, though, require bigger changes, such as quitting smoking or lowering the salt or fatty food in your diet. While these changes may seem like a difficult adjustment, the outcome of a healthier heart and body is worth the work.5 

This February, get out there and celebrate your most hard-working muscle. Start by speaking with your doctor about your heart health and understanding your risks. Together, you and your physician can make the right changes or create the right plan to keep your heart pumping for longer. 

References:

  1. Watson, S.  (2013). Amazing Facts About Heart Health and Heart Disease. Retrieved January 11, 2013, from Web MD Magazine. Website: http://www.webmd.com/heart/features/amazing-facts-about-heart-health-and-heart-disease.
  2. Million Hearts. About Heart Disease and Stroke. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from Million Hearts website: http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/abouthds/cost-consequences.html.
  3. Mozzafarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, Arnett DK, Blaha MJ, Cushman M, et al. on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2016 update: a report from the American Heart Association.  Circulation 2016;133:e38–360.
  4. Roger V, Go, A, Lloyd-Jones, D, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2011 update. A report from the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Circulation 2011;123:e1-e192.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Website. “February is American Heart Month”. http://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/. Updated February 4, 2013. Accessed January 21, 2014.