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Heart Care 101

February is Heart month. It’s an important month for the most important organ we have.

But so many people neglect their heart.

The CDC shows that one person dies every 34 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. About 697,000 people in the United States died from heart disease in 2020—that’s 1 in every 5 deaths. Heart disease cost the United States about $229 billion each year from 2017 to 2018.

What Is Heart Disease?

When people talk about heart disease, they’re usually talking about coronary heart disease (CHD). It’s also sometimes called coronary artery disease (CAD). This is the most common type of heart disease.

When someone has CHD, the coronary arteries (tubes) that take blood to the heart are narrow or blocked. This happens when cholesterol and fatty material, called plaque, build up inside the arteries.

Several things can lead to plaque building up inside your arteries, including:

  • Too much cholesterol in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Too much sugar in the blood because of diabetes

When plaque blocks an artery, it’s hard for blood to flow to the heart. A blocked artery can cause chest pain or a heart attack.

Anyone can get heart disease, but you’re at higher risk if you:

  • Have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes
  • Smoke
  • Are overweight or have obesity
  • Don’t get enough physical activity
  • Don’t eat a healthy diet

Your age and family history also affect your risk for heart disease. Your risk is higher if:

  • You’re a woman over age 55
  • You’re a man over age 45
  • Your father or brother had heart disease before age 55
  • Your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65

There are ways to prevent heart disease

  • Eat healthy. A heart healthy diet consists of a combination of different foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
  • Get active. Increase regular physical activity to at least 2.5 hours per week
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 and above. Central obesity or adiposity on the other hand is a high waist circumference of more than 80 cm for females and more than 90 cm for males.
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Have your blood pressure and blood sugar checked regularly.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  • Manage stress.

So this February – take extra care of your heart. You only get one and it is our life line. Be good to it, and it will be good to you!

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