February is American Heart Month, when Americans come together raise awareness of the causes and risk factors for heart disease and help each other change the statistics. Every 43 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack. Every minute, someone dies from causes related to heart disease. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in both men and women. In the United States, one in every four deaths is related to heart disease. Fortunately for us, heart disease is preventable, if we make an effort to reduce our risk factors.
Want to be part of the cure? Check out these national movements in heart health awareness and education:
- American Heart Association National Wear Red Day – On February 5th, wear red to show your support, spread the word on social media using #GoRed, and donate to fund research and awareness efforts.
- National Million Hearts campaign – Join the Million Hearts campaign to help prevent a million new cases of heart disease. Learn prevention strategies and more.
Am I at risk? Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, overweight and obesity, diabetes and prediabetes, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and smoking. Family history of heart disease can also increase your risk.
Nearly half of Americans (49%) are living with at least one major risk factor for heart disease. Are you one of them?
What are some of the symptoms of heart disease? Common symptoms of heart disease that should be investigated by a doctor include:
- Chest pain (angina)
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting or dizziness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Swelling of the legs and feet
What can I do if I have symptoms of heart disease? If you have symptoms of heart disease, act fast. Work with your doctor to find out the cause of your symptoms so you can begin treatment as soon as possible.
Prevention is key. Your doctor may recommend one or more cardiac assessments, like those below. Visit MDsave to find affordable cardiac assessments near you.
Detects: signs of heart arrhythmia, previous or current heart attacks, or damage due to coronary heart disease. The EKG can reveal a heartbeat that is irregular, fast or slow, and can identify if the heart muscle is overworked or enlarged. Learn more.
Detects: blockages in the blood vessels, blood clots, abdominal aneurysm. Learn more.
Detects: aortic disease, cardiac masses, and pericardial disease. Learn more.
Detects: heart attack risk, coronary artery disease, and potential causes of angina (chest pain). Learn more.
What can I do to prevent heart disease? A healthy diet, physical activity, and avoiding or quitting smoking are three of the best lifestyle choices you can make to protect your heart. In addition, keep up with your regular wellness exams so you always know where you stand on your risk factors.
- Eat a heart healthy diet, including fiber-rich whole grains, fruits and vegetables, Omega-3 rich fish at least twice a week, nuts, legumes, and reduced amounts of meat. Switching to skinless poultry, low fat dairy, lean cuts of meat, and reducing sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat also help promote heart health.[ii]
- Reduce your sodium intake if you have high blood pressure. Aim for 1500 mg or less a day.[iii]
- Exercise at least 150 minutes each week by doing moderate intensity aerobic activity and work on muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week.[iv]
- Don’t smoke, or quit smoking.
- Get screened regularly.[v] The tests that measure key risk factors for cardiovascular health are:
- Blood Pressure: An ideal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg.
- Cholesterol and Triglycerides
- Body Weight
- Blood Glucose
Did you know…that you really can die of a broken heart? Broken heart syndrome, AKA stress-induced cardiomyopathy, is a real condition where part of the heart enlarges and fails to pump at peak capacity as a result of intense stress. Broken heart syndrome can be diagnosed with coronary angiography, along with other standard cardiac assessments.[vii]
Other heart disease related procedures:
Ankle-Brachial Index: Detects: peripheral artery disease (PAD), narrowed blood vessels, risk of heart attack, stroke, reduced circulation and leg pain. Learn more.
Blood Culture: Detects: risk for heart disease, heart attacks. Learn more.
Echocardiography (echo): Detects: problems in the pericardium (outer tissues of the heart), blood vessels, or valves, and can detect blood clots and abnormal holes between the heart’s chambers. Learn more.
Holter monitoring (ambulatory EKG): Detects: arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and the causes of fainting or dizziness, also determines the effectiveness of pacemakers. Learn more.
Chest X-ray: Detects: heart failure, fluid buildup due to heart attack, and symptoms unrelated to the heart. Learn more.
Coronary catheterization and coronary angiography: Detects: blockages of the heart and blood vessels. Learn more.