February Is American Heart Month

Heart disease can happen to anyone and is one of the leading killers in the United States. Despite it being associated with those who are older, it’s increasingly happening to younger and younger individuals as well. That’s why it’s never been more important for everyone to take preventative measures and educate themselves on the dangers of this terrible disease. 

The best way to prevent heart disease is through raising awareness. One way to do that is by observing American Heart Month. But what is American Heart Month, you ask? Let’s take a closer look at what it is, the origins behind it, and why using this month to monitor heart health and educate ourselves could lead to more lives saved. 

What is American Heart Month? 

American Heart Month began in 1964 after a proclamation from U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. It was Johnson who said, “I urge the people of the United States to give heed to the nationwide problem of the heart and blood-vessel diseases, and to support the programs required to bring about its solution.”

The event is held every February and is a whole month dedicated to promoting information about heart health and preventing heart disease. It is sponsored by the American Heart Association who said that American Heart Month “is a great way to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends and communities involved. Together, we can build a culture of health where making the healthy choice is the easy choice.”

Why heart health is so important for everyone

Heart health is important for everyone because heart disease affects everyone. According to the CDC, here are some startling statistics about heart disease:

  • It’s the leading cause of death among all racial and ethnic groups in this country. 
  • 1 in every 4 American deaths annually is from heart disease. 
  • On average, someone has a heart attack in the U.S. every 40 seconds. 
  • Almost two-thirds of women who die due to sudden coronary heart disease experience no symptoms prior to death.  

The odds are highly likely that either you or someone you know or love is affected by heart disease, so it’s a malady that strikes close to home for just about every American in one way or another. That’s why continuing our national education surrounding the dangers of heart disease is so important. It’s also critical because the disease itself is preventable. With some simple lifestyle changes and better habits, you can greatly cut down on your risk of heart disease. 

How to monitor your health for a healthy heart

Taking note of your cholesterol levels is one way to test for heart health. Ensuring your cholesterol levels aren’t too high – mainly with a diet that isn’t high in sugars along with regular exercise – will help decrease your chances of heart disease. Monitoring your blood pressure is another way to maintain awareness of your heart health. High blood pressure is one of the leading indicators of heart disease. 

Keeping track of other unhealthy habits you may have such as smoking or excessive drinking can also serve as ways to monitor your overall health as well as that of your heart. 

Some general conditions associated with heart disease or behaviors that lead to heart disease are listed below: 

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Over consumption of alcohol 
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of physical exertion
  • Poor eating habits

While the threat of heart disease can seem scary, it doesn’t have to be. There are measures you can take to avoid it. 

How to keep your heart healthy

Maintaining an active dialogue with your doctor about your habits and overall health is the best way to ensure your heart is healthy. There are some other best practices you can follow to ensure your heart stays in good health. These are all pieces of advice you should take to heart (pardon the pun) today. Implementing these habits immediately can help add years to your life: 

  • Keep an eye on your diet. Avoiding processed foods and sticking to whole foods for the majority of your diet. Limit the amount of fast food. Cook the majority of your meals at home, where you can control the ingredients in your food. Stay away from foods with added sugar. 
  • Get plenty of exercise. Regular cardiovascular exercise can work wonders for your heart health. Getting your blood pumping through either resistance training, running, or competitive sports can help stave off heart disease. 
  • Have your cholesterol checked regularly. If you’re going for regular, annual check-ups, your doctor should be checking your cholesterol levels. 
  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption. Smoking can do significant damage to your blood vessels and is a cause of heart disease. Drinking too much alcohol (especially beer or liquor) can also speed up the effects of heart disease. Quit smoking and moderate your drinking – in some cases, like if you drink a glass or two of wine a day, low levels of drinking can actually have health benefits. 
  • If you feel the symptoms of a heart attack, get help immediately. If you find yourself feeling short of breath or experiencing chest pains and dizziness, seek medical help immediately. Don’t wait, as the seconds are precious when you may be having a heart attack. 
  • Know your heart age. While you certainly know how old you are, did you know your heart age may be different than your actual age? Adopting bad habits for poor heart health can add years to your heart. Smoking, having high blood pressure and other warning signs can put your heart at increased risk. Considering your heart age is one way to remain cognizant of the shape your heart is in, and what you need to do to take better care of it. 

American Heart Month is a great opportunity to spread awareness of better heart health as well as some of the dangers of developing bad habits. By building healthier habits and cutting down on unhealthy ones, you can greatly decrease your chances of succumbing to heart disease.