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February is American Heart Month

This month we raise awareness about heart health to urge Americans to lower their risk for developing heart disease.

Did You Know?

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

  • One person dies every 37 seconds in the United States from heart disease

  • About 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.

  • Heart disease costs the United States about $219 billion each year!

So, what exactly is “Heart Disease” anyway?...I'm glad you asked!

The term “heart disease” (also called cardiovascular disease) refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common types of heart disease in the United States are coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

What are signs and symptoms of Heart Disease?

Heart disease is known as the “silent” killer because most people don't know they have heart disease at all. If you do experiences signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia, they will most likely include the following:

  • Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

  • Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations). Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.

Heart Disease and Heart Attack present differently in women. Women may experience

-Angina (dull and heavy or sharp chest pain or discomfort)

-Pain in the neck, jaw, or throat

-Pain in the upper abdomen or back

If you have any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 or get medical treatment right away.

How to Test for Heart Disease

Your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight will help your healthcare provider understand your overall risk for heart disease. Your healthcare provider may also recommend other tests to check your heart health, which could include:

  • An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to measure your heart’s electrical activity. Your heartbeat is the result of an electrical impulse traveling through your heart.

  • An echocardiogram (echo) to examine how thick your heart muscle is and how well your heart pumps. An exercise stress test (treadmill test) to see how well your heart functions when it’s working hard.

Heart Disease Risk Factors

High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors.

Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:

Heart Disease Prevention

These lifestyle changes can help lower your risk for heart disease or keep it from getting worse, as well as help you manage diabetes:

Follow a healthy diet.

  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.

  • Eat fewer processed foods (such as chips, sweets, fast food) and avoid fat.

  • Drink more water, fewer sugary drinks, and less alcohol. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women no more than 1 drink per day.

  • Eating lots of foods high in saturated fat and trans-fat may contribute to heart disease by increasing cholesterol levels but eating foods high in fiber and low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol can lower cholesterol levels.

  • Limit the salt you consume in your diet to help lower your blood pressure.

  • Limit sugar in your diet to help lower your blood sugar level to prevent or manage your diabetes.

Aim for a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, losing even a modest amount of weight can lower your triglycerides and blood sugar. Modest weight loss means 5% to 7% of body weight, just 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person.

Get active. Try to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking.

Manage stress. Stress can raise your blood pressure and can also lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as drinking too much alcohol or overeating. Instead, visit a mental health counselor, try meditation or deep breathing, get some physical activity, or get support from friends and family.

Find more information about Heart Disease, visit:

· Centers for Disease Control

· National Institutes of Health

· American Heart Association

You can find more information about the free blood pressure management workshop offered inside the Umemba Health Academy Virtual Health and Wellness Studio here

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