It’s that time of year again, where couples are posting romantic pictures on social media for Valentine’s Day, or people who are single are fighting back with #SinglesAwarenessDay. You’ve seen the displays of chocolate hearts for sale in the grocery store, or are mourning the loss of Neccos Sweethearts this year. But it’s not all about the lovey hearts this month. In fact, February is National Heart Health Awareness Month.
According to the Center for Disease Control, over 600,000 people die of heart disease every year in the United States. That’s about 1 in 4 deaths. It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women. Risk factors for heart disease include having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being a smoker. Other risk factors include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol usage
Heart disease is a blanket term that covers a lot of heart-related conditions, including the following:
- Cardiomyopathy: Cardiomyopathy occurs when the normal muscle in the heart changes from healthy tissue to tissue in poor condition. The muscle might become stiff, thickened, thinned out, or filled with substances that don’t belong there. This means that the heart can’t pump blood as effectively, which can lead to irregular heartbeats or heart failure. This condition often goes undiagnosed and as many as 1 in 500 adults could have this condition.
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): CAD happens when plaque buildup occurs in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. When plaque builds up, it causes the inside of the arteries to narrow or be blocked completely. If not treated, CAD can weaken the heart muscle, leading to arrhythmia or heart failure.
- Heart Attack: A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart is cut off. When the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough oxygen through blood cells, it begins to die. The more time that passes before blood flow is restored, the greater the damage is to the heart. Each year, about 790,000 Americans have a heart attack, and about 15% of people who have a heart attack die from it. A heart attack is often a symptom of other heart diseases.
- Aortic Aneurysm: An aortic aneurysm is when the aorta develops a balloon-like bulge. This bulge can split the layers of the artery wall, causing blood to seep in between the layers, or the aorta can burst completely, causing internal bleeding.
If you’re at risk of developing heart disease, know the signs and symptoms so you can be better prepared to handle any health problems that might occur.
Signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain or discomfort, often in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes. It may go away and come back. The discomfort may feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, or fullness.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath, which may occur either before the chest discomfort or at the same time you feel chest pain.
- Cold sweat
While this information may sound bleak, there is hope! You can lower your risk factors for heart disease through exercise and proper diet. Avoid smoking or using any tobacco products. Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and talk to your doctor about your blood pressure and cholesterol levels so you can best determine a health plan that works for your unique needs.
Source: Centers for Disease Control
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