The good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep your heart healthy and to prevent or reduce your risk of severe heart disease.
History of American Heart Month
This month originates from the 36th U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. The former president was one of many who suffered from heart attacks, and he issued a proclamation in 1964 that February would be American Heart Month. He urged the country’s citizens to be aware of the problems that could arise with the heart and supported programs that were dedicated to creating solutions. Since 1964, every U.S. president has followed Johnson’s lead to promote the nation’s heart health.
In 2004, the American Heart Association (AHA) also established the first Friday of February would be National Wear Red Day as part of the Go Red for Women campaign. This campaign raised awareness of the statistic that nearly 500,000 annual deaths in the United States caused by cardiovascular disease were women.
As long as heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., American Heart Month will always be an important month with a mission to carry out throughout the year for the medical field and public health.
Causes of Heart Disease
Cardiovascular diseases stem from various complications that happen in the human body. Heart disease and stroke are more often caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and obesity.
High Blood Pressure & High Cholesterol
High blood pressure damages the arteries’ lining, which causes a build of plaque and narrows the arteries leading to the heart. Multiple healthcare organizations have named it the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. About one in two US adults have high blood pressure, which is defined as 130/80 mm Hg or higher, and only about one in four have the condition under control.
High cholesterol also increases the risk of heart disease by almost double. Any excess cholesterol builds up in arteries and limits blood flow in the same way as high blood pressure.
Diabetes occurs when there is high blood sugar in the body that damages and blocks blood vessels; when the brain doesn’t get enough blood, a stroke happens. It’s also common for people with diabetes to have high blood pressure.
Smoking & Secondhand Smoke Exposure
Smoking is at the root of one in four deaths from heart disease and stroke. The reason behind this is that smoking raises fat levels in the blood, lowers HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol), makes blood more likely to clot, damages blood vessel cells, increases plaque buildup, and thickens or narrows the blood vessels.
Obesity & Physical Inactivity
People who are diagnosed as overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), low HDL cholesterol, high fat in the blood, and type 2 diabetes.
Physical inactivity can cause heart disease in people with no other risk factors. It can increase the risk of developing obesity, high blood pressure, high “bad” cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
How to Care of Your Heart
While there are many risk factors for developing heart disease, you can lower your chances by adopting heart-healthy habits.
Lowering sodium, added sugars, and saturated and trans fat intake will lower your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. A healthy diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins.
The CDC outlines that about 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity and about two days of muscle-strengthening activity over the course of a week is the appropriate amount of physical activity for maintaining some degree of physical fitness. They also recommend sitting less and moving throughout the day.
Another essential way to monitor and improve your heart health is to get regular checkups. You can discuss your medical history and family history of heart disease with your primary care doctors. Your annual checkup includes testing your blood pressure, and you can request to get your cholesterol tested to see where your levels are.
Our staff at Hillcroft Physicians, P.A. would be happy to assist you in maintaining your heart health. We take a holistic approach to health care, treating your body, mind, and spirit. Call 713-988-3921 for appointments.