For more than 50 years, people have celebrated American Heart Month in February.
The first American Heart Month was in February 1964, after Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation marking the day on Dec 30, 1963. In the ‘60s, over half the deaths in America were the result of cardiovascular disease.
Today, the association says approximately 2,300 people in the U.S. die of cardiovascular disease daily. Such numbers mean it’s likely you or someone you know has been touched by this disease.
And the problem isn’t confined to the U.S. – cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death worldwide. More than 17.9 million people around the globe die each year due to cardiovascular disease, with the number of deaths expect to reach 23.6 million annually by 2030, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
That’s why it’s important to take steps to decrease your risk by making good choices when it comes to diet and exercise. Although age and family history are factors in cardiovascular disease, the AHA says you can boost your health and lower your risk by about 80 percent by adopting lifestyle changes.
Exercise is not only good for your overall physical health, it can give you a mental lift, too. For instance, it can help lower blood pressure, increase levels of good cholesterol, increase circulation, help you lose weight and fight off osteoporosis, which weakens bones and makes them easier to break.
The Cleveland Clinic suggests these additional five tips to maintain heart health:
- Eat “good” fats, not trans fats. What’s the difference between the two? Trans fats can clog arteries by increasing bad cholesterol and decreasing good cholesterol. Trans fats can be found in packaged baked goods, snack foods, margarine and fried fast food. When checking food labels, look for 0 percent trans fat.
- Floss and brush your teeth regularly. Many studies have shown a link between gum disease and heart disease.
- Sleep well. One study showed that people over 45 who slept less than six hours a night were twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack than those who got six to eight hours of sleep.
- Keep moving. Research suggests that sitting for long periods of time is bad for you, even if you do exercise. Park a bit farther from your destination, take brief walks throughout the day – and do try to exercise regularly.
- Stay away from secondhand smoke. The AHA says exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to approximately 34,000 heart disease deaths and 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year.
In addition to making healthy choices, it’s wise to educate yourself on the symptoms of heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest so you can get help as soon as possible.
The AHA offers these guidelines on what to look for:
Heart Attack Symptoms
- Discomfort in the center of the chest, which lasts longer than a few minutes or goes away and then returns. It may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in one or both arms, back, jaw, neck or stomach.
- Shortness of breath, whether or not it’s accompanied by chest pain.
- Nausea, lightheadedness or a cold sweat.
Stroke Symptoms (FAST)
- Facial drooping or numbness. To check this, ask the person to smile.
- Arm weakness. Loss of strength or numbness in one arm. To test this, ask the person to raise both arms and see if one drifts down.
- Speech difficulty. The person may not be able to speak, or their speech may be slurred or difficult to understand. Ask them to repeat an easy-to-say sentence to see if they can do it correctly.
- Time to call 9-1-1.
Cardiac Arrest Symptoms
- Sudden loss of responsiveness. The person doesn’t respond, even to hard taps on the shoulder or asking loudly if they are all right.
- Loss of normal breathing. The person isn’t breathing or is gasping for air.
Remember that with heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest, getting help quickly is essential. Do not hesitate to call 9-1-1, because you could be saving a life.
If you are worried you may be at risk for cardiovascular disease, talk to your Care Team. They can help you get more information and connect you with a health care provider who can evaluate your risk.