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February is National Heart Month

Although heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, it is also preventable and controllable. Since February is American Heart Month, we wanted to join the CDC and the American Heart Association in providing helpful tips for better heart health.

Did you know?

  • Each year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack.
  • In the United States, 600,000 people die each year from heart disease, which is one out of every four deaths.
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, costs the United States $312.6 billion each year, including the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America for both men and women.
  • Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, where no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help.

The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type in the U.S. is coronary heart disease (also known as coronary artery disease), which occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Coronary heart disease can cause heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmia’s.

Although the situation is admittedly alarming, there is good news—heart disease is preventable and controllable. Some health conditions and lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for developing heart disease. You can help prevent heart disease by making healthy choices and managing preexisting medical conditions.

Plan for Prevention

  • Eat a healthy diet. Choose healthful meal and snack options to ward off heart disease and associated complications, including stroke. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Adults should have at least five servings each day. Also, eat foods that are low in saturated fat, Trans fat, and cholesterol. (One way to do this is to eat plenty of fiber.) Limit salt or sodium, which can lower blood pressure. For more information on healthy diet and nutrition, visit the CDC’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Program website.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese could increase your risk of heart disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to calculate body fat.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to check yours on a regular basis.
  • Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases the risk for heart disease, among many other problems. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible.
  • Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking excess alcohol, which can increase blood pressure. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women, no more than one.
  • Check your cholesterol. Your health care provider should routinely test your cholesterol levels at least once every five years.
  • If applicable, manage your diabetes. Monitor blood sugar levels closely, and talk with your doctor about treatment options. To avoid diabetes, maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
  • Take necessary mediation. If your doctor has prescribed medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, follow his or her recommendations.
  • Familiarize yourself with Danger Signs and act quickly if you suspect heart attack or stroke.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

  • Chest Discomfort
  • Discomfort in Other Parts of the Body
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Breaking out in a Cold Sweat
  • Nausea and/or Lightheadedness

Stroke Warning Signs (Spot a Stroke FAST)

  • Face Drooping -Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arm Weakness-Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty-Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • Time to call 911-If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.

Beyond F.A.S.T. – Other Symptoms You Should Know

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Cardiac Arrest Signs

  • Sudden Loss of Responsiveness – Victim won’t respond to tapping on his or her shoulder.
  • Interruption of Normal Breathing -The victim does not take a normal breath when you tilt the head up and check for at least five seconds.

Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. If you experience any of the above signs and symptoms or witness someone else doing the same, remember that minutes matter! When in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 911 or your emergency response number.

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