February: American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month. This federally designated event reinforces the importance of heart health and keeping communities free from heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. You can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease through lifestyle changes and in some cases, medicine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- One person dies every 37 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease.
- Heart disease claims 647,000 lives each year – that’s one in every four deaths in the U.S.
- Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 365,000 people annually.
- In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds.
- About 805,000 people have a heart attack each year. Of these, 605,000 are a first heart attack; 200,000 happen to people who have already had a heart attack.
- About 1 in 5 heart attacks are silent, which means that damaged has been inflicted but that the person is not aware of it.
High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors.
There are several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices that can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease. These include:
- Overweight and obesity
- Tobacco use
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol
While some risk factors for heart disease cannot be controlled, such as your age or family history, you can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factors that are in your control.
By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels normal and lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack.
- Early prevention: Have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly. Your doctor can provide suggestions to help you manage your health.
- Regular exercise: Even mild to moderate physical activity can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. For adults, the Surgeon General recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.
- Proper diet: A healthy diet can lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. Eat a high-fiber, low-sodium and low-fat diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts and contains reduced amounts of red meat and eggs.
- Drink alcohol in moderation: Excess alcohol can lead to higher blood pressure and an increased risk of heart failure and stroke. Adults should consume no more than one to two alcoholic drinks a day to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Quit smoking: Tobacco use has been proven to be a major contributing factor of cardiovascular disease. It is estimated that smokers’ risk of heart attacks is more than twice the risk for non-smokers.
- Manage stress: Too much stress can lead to unhealthy lifestyle decisions, such as poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. Learn to cope with stress in order to alleviate its contribution to high blood pressure.
American Heart Association
American Stroke Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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