February is heart month. There are many things you will need and want to know about heart health.
February is American Heart Month. During this month, we bring awareness to the fact that heart disease is the number one killer in the US.
According to the CDC, about 600,000 American people die every year from heart disease. That’s one in every four deaths.
Heart disease usually refers to the condition of narrowing or blocked blood vessels. This occurs due to the build-up of various unhealthy substances, like saturated fats and cholesterol. Once your vessels are blocked, they no longer pump blood properly, eventually leading to heart attack.
Each year about 700,000 Americans have a heart attack.
Heart disease does not discriminate. It is the number one killer of most ethnicities in the US including African-Americans, Hispanics and Caucasians. For American Indians or Alaska natives, heart disease is only second to cancer.
While genetics do play a part in cardiovascular disease, the great news is that up to 80% of cardiovascular diseases are preventable through education and taking action to manage already occurring conditions.
February is American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month. Every year, various organizations use this time to disseminate information on heart disease in an effort to better inform the public about this deadly epidemic.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease includes a range of problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This narrowing makes it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can completely block blood flow, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
Coronary Heart Disease, or CHD, is the most common type of heart disease, and it kills almost 400,000 people a year.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are three main risk factors for heart disease.
About half of Americans have at least one of these lifestyle risk factors. These are not the only causes of heart disease, however. There are a number of other risk factors that can greatly increase the likelihood that you will contract heart disease.
Almost 40% of all Americans are obese. The definition of obesity is having a Body Mass Index that is higher than 30. Being overweight can put a serious strain on your heart, leading to an increased risk for heart disease.
Diabetes causes sugar build-up in the blood. It can also damage the blood vessels and nerves which help to control the heart muscle. Poor blood flow can lead to bad circulation, amputations and heart disease.
Lack of Exercise
Only 1 in 5 American adults gets the proper amount of exercise. Many Americans lead increasingly sedentary lifestyles, putting themselves at increased risk.
Poor Eating Habits
Only 1 in 10 American adults are getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diets. The Standard American Diet, or SAD, which is high in unhealthy preservatives, sodium and saturated fats, is a main cause of heart disease.
How To Prevent Heart Disease
Heart disease awareness is of paramount importance.
As stated earlier, up to 80% of those suffering from heart disease could have avoided it by changing select lifestyle factors. There are a number of actions you can take to ensure that you do not end up a statistic.
Give Up Cigarettes
As the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, smoking is responsible for a ton of pain and suffering. Of course, it is best not to start at all, but if you are already smoking, quitting is one of the most important actions you can take toward better health.
Manage Existing Conditions
Work with your doctors to manage chronic conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This includes showing up to all appointments and taking prescription medicines faithfully.
Change Your Diet
Eat food low in trans-fat, saturated fat, added sugar and sodium. Try to fill your diet with fruits and veggies and other fresh, preservative-free foods. Aim to cook at home, from scratch, as much as possible.
Some Tips for Eating a Heart-Healthy Diet:
- Choose olive or avocado oil over other vegetable oils for cooking.
- Implement a plant-based diet. Keep meals that include meat to 1-2 per week.
- Choose organic butter, dairy, and meats.
- Pack your diet with as many heart-healthy superfoods as possible. These include salmon, and other types of fish high in Omega-3’s, almonds, yogurt, tomatoes, tart cherries and oatmeal.
- Switch to sea salt or himalayan salt, both of which are high in minerals and low in sodium.
- Drink green tea regularly as it helps to detox unhealthy trans fats while lowering blood pressure and increasing fat-burning.
US Government Physical Activity guidelines state that the average citizen should aim to get at least 2 1/2 hours of physical activity each week, or about 30 minutes each day. You can even break this down into 10-minute blocks. Doing chores around the house, taking the dog for a walk and going to classes at your local gym are all ways to add to your activity levels.
Keep Stress At Bay
Stress leads to increased levels of cortisol, which can contribute to weight gain. Stress also contributes to anxiety and depression. It is important to keep stress levels low in order to keep your heart healthy. Do yoga and meditation regularly to keep your heart rate low. Engage in positive self-talk and affirmations. Spending time in nature is also great for lowering stress and anxiety levels.
Here’s to Your Heart Health!
Getting regular check-ups are a vital part of your heart health management plan. Since February is heart month, there is no better time than the present!
It is important to work with health professionals who understand your particular health concerns and value your well-being. Contact us for help finding the perfect providers for all of your healthcare needs.