Besides Valentine’s Day hearts, you’re likely to see a lot of the color red in February. But it’s not just chocolates and balloons highlighting crimson this month—it’s also the American Heart Association’s (AHA) annual Heart Month!
This yearly observation is intended to bring attention to the no. 1 killer of American adults: Heart disease. Heart disease is blanket term that includes hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke and heart attack. Sadly, heart disease claims 600,000 American lives every year and much of it is preventable.
Since everyone has a heart, everyone is potentially at risk for heart disease. Consider athlete Damar Hamlin who recently suffered a myocardial infarction (MI), commonly known as a heart attack. People of color tend to be at higher risk for heart disease, which is why it’s especially important to see one’s healthcare provider regularly. Risk factors for heart disease can include a family history of heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, smoking, lack of exercise, too much alcohol and chronic conditions such as diabetes.
It’s not just genetics that separate the women from the men, it’s also the symptoms of heart disease. While men may experience more profound physical symptoms such as an achy left arm or “elephant sitting on my chest,” women may experience more subtle feelings such as fatigue or fainting spells. Having a health care provider familiar with your history and health is the first step to helping recognize when a symptom requires a work-up.
While some risks are unavoidable, the good news is that everyone can benefit their heart health through some simple steps. One of the most important is diet. That’s not to say you can never enjoy a guilty pleasure from time to time, but the more fresh, organic fruits and veggies you add to your diet, the better. Moving your body is also important though not always the easiest for those dealing with physical limitations. Move what you can with regularity. This can be as simple as a stroll after lunch or dinner to joining a sports club and playing soccer. For those on certain Medicare plans, gym memberships are a great benefit. Plus, gyms typically have trainers that can adapt exercises to suit every age and ability. The same holds true for smoking cessation programs available as a Medicare or health insurance benefit.
Lastly, knowing what to do if someone suffers from a heart attack is vitally important as minutes can be the difference between life and death. First, know emergency services numbers like 9-1-1 or the telephone number if in a rural area. Secondly, be aware of the address of the location you’re at. Third, learn CPR or how to use an automatic external defibrillator (AED). Both of these skills will greatly improve survivability for an individual in cardiac arrest.
As the headlines bring to life the sad realities of heart disease, there’s no need to stress too much especially when your Internal Medicine Specialists provider can help you. Whether you’re trying to quit tobacco, lose weight or manage cholesterol with a nutrition plan that’s delicious and effective, let us know you’re ready to love your heart and we’ll partner with you in ensuring its ticking in health!
Learn more about heart disease at Heart.org. <3