Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease, making it the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Luckily, heart disease can often be prevented through a healthy lifestyle and correct management of health conditions. American Heart Month makes a difference through spreading awareness about strategies for preventing heart disease and encouraging people to live heart healthy lives.
What puts someone at risk?
- High blood pressure – Millions of Americans of all ages have high blood pressure, including millions of people in their 40s and 50s. About half of people with high blood pressure don’t have it under control. Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and other harmful conditions, such as stroke.
- High blood cholesterol – High cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease. Having diabetes and obesity, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels.
- Smoking – More than 37 million U.S. adults are current smokers, and thousands of young people start smoking each day. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease.
- Obesity – Carrying extra weight puts stress on the heart. More than 1 in 3 Americans—and nearly 1 in 6 children ages 2 to 19—has obesity.
- Diabetes. Diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood. This can damage blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscle. Nearly 1 in 10 people in the United States has diabetes.
- Physical inactivity – Staying physically active helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Only 1 in 5 adults meets the physical activity guidelines of getting 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity.
- Unhealthy eating patterns – Most Americans, including children, eat too much sodium (salt), which increases blood pressure. Replacing foods high in sodium with fresh fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure. But only 1 in 10 adults is getting enough fruits and vegetables each day. Diet high in trans-fat, saturated fat, and added sugar increases the risk factor for heart disease.
There are certain behaviors and lifestyle habits that can help to keep you heart healthy at any age, such has:
- Don’t smoke – Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn how to quit.
- Manage conditions – Work with your health care team to manage conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This includes taking any medicines you have been prescribed. Learn more about preventing and managing high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Make heart-healthy eating changes – Eat food low in trans-fat, saturated fat, added sugar and sodium. Try to fill at least half your plate with vegetables and fruits, and aim for low sodium options. Learn more about how to reduce sodium.
- Stay active – Get moving for at least 150 minutes per week. You can even break up the 30 minutes into 10-minute blocks. Learn more about how to get enough physical activity.
One of the effects of poor heart health could be experiencing a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply gets cut off from the heart. Symptoms can vary from person to person and range from mild to severe, and they may not appear right away. Men and women can have different symptoms. If someone has a heart attack, they may experience:
- Chest discomfort—the person may feel pain, pressure, or squeezing in the center of their chest. This pain can last for more than a few minutes. It may also come and go.
- Other parts of the body may feel uncomfortable—this discomfort can travel to areas in the upper body, such as the arms, back, neck, and jaw.
- Shortness of breath—can occur with or without chest pain.
- Sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, or fainting
- Loss of consciousness or does not respond
National Wear Red Day
National Wear Red Day is celebrated on the first Friday of February, which will be on February 7th this year. On this day, organizations around the country wear red to spread awareness about heart health and heart disease in the U.S.