February is American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month - a time to focus on heart health, learn about the risks, and engage in preventive measures. While there are awareness months throughout the year, this particular one is very meaningful to me. My Dad had a cardiac arrest at his workplace when he was in his early 70s. He collapsed on the floor, co-workers performed CPR, and the paramedics used a defibrillator to restart his heart. Those actions bought my Daddy six more years before his body finally gave out at the age of 78. That was almost 12 years ago and just a few years ago, my husband at age 52 had a heart attack. I know first hand how important it is to know your risk factors, seriously look at your lifestyle, and employ changes as necessary.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cardiovascular disease, listed as the underlying cause of death, accounts for 801,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. That is 1 of every 3 deaths. About 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular diseases each day, an average of 1 death every 40 seconds. In fact, cardiovascular diseases claim more lives each year than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined. Currently, about 92.1million American adults are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of stroke. Heart disease including coronary heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and stroke remains the number one cause of death in the U.S.
The American Heart Association's goal is to reduce deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by the year 2020 and improve cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent. The first steps toward reaching those goals are educating the public on risk factors and giving them healthy lifestyle tools.
Major risk factors for heart disease fall into two categories: non-modifiable and modifiable Non-modifiable factors cannot be changed. They include your age, gender, and family history. Modifiable factors can be affected even by modest lifestyle changes. They include: high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and overweight, smoking, diabetes, and poor diet. So for instance, in my Dad's case, he had a family history - pretty much every male in his extended family had cardiovascular disease. So that was out of his control, however, the man loved peanuts, jelly beans, and rich foods. Extra pounds around his waistline and foods high in sugar and fat made his heart disease worse and this was in his control. In my husband's case, he had absolutely no family history. His numbers were actually good, meaning low blood pressure, normal weight, and acceptable cholesterol levels. He did, however, eat lots of sugar. (It is the only factor the doctor and he have been able to identify.) While his waistline was fine, the sugar was contributing to clogged arteries. Two and half years after his heart attack, he eats less sugar, hits the gym 3-5 times a week, and eats more veggies - all things under his control.
Those simple changes are part of what the AHA calls the Simple 7. The seven things every person can do to reduce risk and improve their daily health include:
Eat Right - eat more veggies, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains. Reduce anything processed like frozen dinners, canned spaghetti, potato chips, baked goods, and soda.
Lose Weight - According to the National Institutes of Health, more than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese. More than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese. More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity. Almost 3 in 4 men (74 percent) are considered to be overweight or obese.
Get Moving - About 30% of adults report participating in no leisure time activity. Just walking after breakfast, lunch, or dinner, taking the stairs, or parking far away from the door at the grocery store can make a difference. The idea is to spend more time moving naturally throughout the day.
Stop Smoking - Worldwide, tobacco smoking (including second hand smoke) was 1 of the top 3 leading risk factors for disease. Locally, Noyes Health offers smoking cessation classes. (for more information, call the contact number at the end of this article.)
Manage blood pressure - About 33% of Americans have high blood pressure. Get your blood pressure checked on a regular basis and if necessary, take medication per your physician's directions to control it.
Control Cholesterol - About 40% of Americans have high cholesterol. This can be controlled by diet, exercise, and medications. A yearly physical including a blood workup will reveal your cholesterol levels.
Reduce blood sugar - An estimated 23.4 million adults have diagnosed diabetes. An estimated 7.6 million have undiagnosed diabetes. Additionally, about 81.6 million or almost 34% of the population have prediabetes which without eating right and moving more can lead to type 2 diabetes. Like cholesterol, your blood glucose level can be measured via a simple blood test.
For more information, recipes, and ideas for a healthy lifestyle, go to:
American Heart Association - www.heart.org
CDC - https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/
Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at URMC Noyes Health in Dansville. For more information on this topic or to suggest article ideas, contact Lorraine at firstname.lastname@example.org or 585-335-4327.