Valentine’s Day conjures images of little pink and red hearts, but there’s one heart in particular to think of this month, our own. Heart health is a major concern in the United States, which is why February has been designated American Heart Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 27.6 million Americans have been diagnosed with heart disease. The CDC also found that heart disease accounts for about 610,000 deaths a year in the United States, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women.
As the leading cause of death in the United States, it goes to reason that heart disease will touch, or already has touched, many of us in some way. Making simple lifestyle changes and being proactive about heart health can mean the difference between life and death. American Heart Month is just beginning and there’s no better time than now to start the fight against heart disease. Here are some ways you can take charge of your heart health this February and beyond.
Make Simple Changes for a Huge Impact
Heart disease refers to a number of heart and circulatory disorders, including arrhythmia, coronary artery disease and heart attacks. While some heart disease is congenital, many people who develop heart disease will do so due to obesity, diet, lack of exercise, or smoking, all of which can be controlled by making healthier choices.
Simple lifestyle changes can make a huge impact on heart health. The American Heart Association recommends eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy and meats, while limiting red meats and sweets. The American Heart Association also encourages people to exercise at least three times a week for 40 minutes or longer. Exercise combined with a healthy diet is a good way to prevent obesity and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Get Screened for Heart Disease
Another important step to winning the battle against heart disease is early detection. Screening for risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood glucose, and high cholesterol, can help determine if a person is at increased risk for heart disease. Health screenings may be done during a regular physical and are particularly important for people who have one or more risk factors for heart disease. Through dietary or other lifestyle changes, some of these risks, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, may be lowered.
Know the Signs
Heart disease has many possible signs and symptoms that, if ignored, could lead to death. Knowing the signs of heart disease may help save your life. Shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, dizziness, irregular heartbeats, and feeling weak are all possible symptoms of heart disease and should be brought to a physician’s attention. In addition to these symptoms, pain radiating to the jaw, arm, or back, heaviness in the chest, or a choking feeling can be caused by a heart attack and should be immediately treated to reduce the risk of permanent damage to the heart, or worse, death.
Help End Heart Disease
Heart disease takes hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Through educating people about the importance of diet, exercise, and regular health screenings, it may be possible to save our loved ones and ourselves from this leading cause of death. So what can you do to help end heart disease and find cures? Donating to organizations like the American Heart Association, the National Stroke Association, or WomenHeart, can help fund research and education efforts in the fight against heart disease.
Being diligent about heart health through healthy lifestyle changes and regular physical exams can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Let this February be the start to a lifelong commitment to caring for your heart and your heart will take care of you.
– By Samantha Rivers, Editor @sassysammybee