Each February, organizations across the country join together to raise awareness about heart health. While it’s easy to get caught up in showering others with love this month, let’s take some time to educate ourselves about heart disease and what we can do to take care of our hearts.
Although deaths caused by heart disease have dramatically declined over the past several decades, it still remains the leading cause of death for men and women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides an overview of why heart health is such an important concern. Here are some daunting statistics:
About 647,000 Americans die of heart disease every year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths!
One person dies every 37 seconds in the U.S. due to a heart disease-related event.
Someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds in the U.S.
Every year about 805,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 605,000 are a first heart attack, with the remaining 200,000 happening to people who have already experienced a heart attack previously.
It’s easy to confuse the two, but they are very different situations. The easiest way to remember the difference between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest is:
A heart attack is a plumbing issue
The person is awake
The heart is beating
Sudden cardiac arrest is an electrical issue
The person is not awake
The heart is not beating properly
A heart attack can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, but there are many other causes, including congenital abnormalities, severe heart failure, electrocution and drug overdose.
About half of all Americans (47%) have at least 1 of the 3 key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Other risk factors include having diabetes and being overweight or obese.
Start by meeting with your healthcare provider to discuss risk factors and your family history. Your doctor should test your blood levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels at regular intervals as determined appropriate. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for lifestyle changes, and always follow instructions carefully regarding medications.
You can also take a proactive approach by improving your current lifestyle choices by:
Eating a heart-healthy diet. Make changes to your diet, like limiting your intake of salt and saturated fats.
Quitting smoking or other tobacco products. Your risk of heart disease starts to drop in as little as one day after quitting. After one year, your risk drops by about half. Keep in mind that secondhand smoke increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease by 25-30%. So, quitting also improves the heart health of those around you.
Maintaining a healthy weight. This includes eating a healthy diet and speaking with your doctor about healthy strategies to improve your weight.
Limiting alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking can cause high blood pressure and other serious health risks.
Exercising regularly. Aim for 30-60 minutes of daily physical activity.
We encourage you to share this infographic with friends, family, co-workers and across your social media accounts.
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