Our hearts are fluttering this February with both Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month upon us. Both circumstances give us the opportunity to think about our loved ones and how much they mean to us. Broken hearts are the number one killer of both men and women in the United States, and no, not the Valentine’s Day kind of broken hearts. Cardiovascular disease has become a huge issue and the American Heart Association is constantly conducting research and raising awareness to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans.
Raising awareness and being supportive of American heart health is something anyone can do. On Friday, February 3rd, participate in National Wear Red Day and donate to Go Red For Women. Doing this can help support educational programs to increase women’s awareness and critical research to discover scientific knowledge about cardiovascular health. Heart disease and stroke causes 1 in 3 deaths among women each year, killing approximately 1 woman every 80 seconds.
Women are not alone when it comes to organized movements to prevent heart disease. Million Hearts is challenging men to start at least one new heart-healthy behavior. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, and African American men are unfortunately affected more by heart disease than any other race or ethnicity.
Want to lower your risk of heart disease? Here are some heart healthy moves you can make to reduce your risk and improve your cardiovascular health:
- Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose.
- Talk to your doctor about ways to control high blood pressure.
- Add physical activity to your daily routine.
- Make healthy eating swaps.
- Quit smoking.
- Advocate for heart research and education.
- Educate your family on the importance of staying active and eating healthy.
- Donate to heart research and show your support with time or money.
Heart disease is caused by plaque buildup that thickens and stiffens the artery walls. This build up inhibits the blood flow through your arteries into your organs and tissues. The “plaque” that builds up in the arteries is a waxy substance made up of cholesterol, fatty molecules, and minerals. It accumulates over time and drastically increases the likelihood of developing heart disease with each bit that builds up. If you have any family members who have struggled with heart disease, your risk of also developing the disease increases. Unhealthy diets, lack of exercise, being overweight, and smoking are the biggest factors of heart disease.
Our hearts are the main pump of blood for our entire bodies, so protecting them is one of the most important things we can do for our overall health. Many of the problems that cause heart disease can be corrected by making healthy lifestyle changes and the outcome is always worth it.
If you are interested in learning more about American Heart Month and cardiovascular disease, here are some American Heart Month statistics from the American Heart Association:
- Fewer Americans have been dying of heart disease and stroke since the 1980s thanks to progress in medical therapies for patients with a history of heart disease and stroke and from lifestyle changes that are curbing the risk.
- In every year since 1900 except 1918, Cardiovascular disease accounted for more deaths than any other major cause of death in the United States. Stroke still ranks fifth.
- An estimated 85.6 million people in the U.S. are living with cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and chest pain.
- Among U.S. adults, 32.6 percent- about 80 million- have high blood pressure.
- Despite an overall 28.8 percent drop in cardiovascular disease death rates from 2003 to 2013, the high blood pressure death rate increased 8.2 percent over that same time.
Unfortunately, there is also a risk between heart disease and type 2 diabetes. People who have reached middle age and are not in good health are at the highest risk, especially if they have had a heart attack before or if they have insulin resistance or high blood glucose levels. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, managing your blood sugar carefully can help reduce your risk for having other health issues such as heart disease.