It’s always a good time to think about heart health, but American Heart Month is the ideal time to remind yourself and your family, friends, and community about the importance of living a heart-healthy life. Here’s why:
Heart Disease Can Happen at Any Age
Contrary to popular belief, heart disease is not exclusive to older adults. That’s because many of the risk factors that contribute to heart disease are now being found among younger Americans more often than ever before.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease, including obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking. And with rising obesity and high-blood-pressure rates among those between the ages of 35 and 64, heart disease is something that everyone — not just older Americans — should be thinking about.
Heart Disease is the Leading Cause of Death in America
Perhaps the most sobering statistic about heart disease for Americans is this: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. In fact, about 1 out of every 4 deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease — that’s roughly 610,000 people every year.
Heart health isn’t just a problem that’s specific to America, however. Around the world, nearly 18 million lives are claimed due to cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, every year. And that number is expected to rise to 23.6 million within the next decade.
Every 40 Seconds, Someone in America Has a Heart Attack
A heart attack occurs when the heart doesn’t receive enough blood flow. And in America, someone has a heart attack, on average, every 40 seconds.
Nearly half of all sudden cardiac deaths occur outside of a hospital, which means that it’s important for everyone to know the warning signs of heart attack. The National Heart Attack Alert Program highlights these as the major signs:
- Chest Pain or Discomfort — Usually discomfort on the left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back
- Discomfort in Other Areas of the Upper Body — Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
- Shortness of Breath — Can occur before or in conjunction with chest discomfort
- Cold Sweat, Nausea, or Light-Headedness
If you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Remember, the longer you wait, the more damage may be done to the heart.
High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol Levels, and Diabetes Can Increase Your Risk
Both high blood pressure and high cholesterol are major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 U.S. adults already have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, and high blood pressure diagnoses among young people are on the rise as well.
Your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are mostly defined by lifestyle choices, but there are some other factors, such as family history, age, race, or sex that are out of your control. In addition, diabetes has also been tied to an increased risk for heart disease.
You’re in Control of Your Lifestyle
The most important thing you and your family can take away from American Heart Month is that much of your risk for heart disease is in your control. Following healthy eating habits, living a physically active life, not smoking, checking your blood pressure regularly, and controlling stress levels are essential to limiting your risk for developing cardiovascular diseases.
If you have any questions about your individual level of risk for cardiovascular disease or want to learn more about how to manage your blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes, be sure to talk to your primary care provider. In addition, we hope you’ll get involved by sharing this blog post or simply using the hashtag #HeartMonth throughout the month of February to help raise awareness for cardiovascular disease in your community!