Heart Health

Heart Health

by Heather Quackenboss, Human Development and Relationships Educator, Extension La Crosse County

About $1 in $6 US healthcare dollars is spent on cardiovascular disease each year. It’s the most costly condition in America. When you factor in lost productivity, the CDC estimates heart disease and stroke costs our country more than $320 billion a year. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Heart disease doesn’t happen just to older adults, it is happening to younger adults more and more often. February is Heart Month, the perfect time to learn about your risk for heart disease, the symptoms of a heart attack, and the steps you can to take now to help your heart.

The #1 killer of women in America is heart disease, more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. [American Heart Association]

Heart disease—and the conditions that lead to it—can happen at any age. Many of the conditions and behaviors that put people at risk for heart disease are appearing at younger ages:

  • High blood pressure.
  • High blood cholesterol.
  • Obesity. Carrying extra weight puts stress on the heart.
  • Diabetes.
  • Physical inactivity.
  • Unhealthy eating patterns.

Only 27% of people can identify all the major symptoms of a heart attack and know how to call 911 immediately when they occur. According to the CDC, the major signs of a heart attack are:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. To lower your risk:

  • Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
    Be active. Move or exercise for 150 minutes per week.
    • An adult heart pumps more than a gallon of blood per minute – enough to fill 38,000 drinking glasses each day! [Cleveland Clinic]
    • Studies have shown yoga is effective in slowing down your heart rate, which can help lower your blood pressure. [American Heart Association]
  • Do not smoke, quit smoking, and stay away from second hand smoke.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • Be social and laugh.
    • Laughing may increase overall health. Research suggests a good laugh can increase your blood flow by 20%. The positive effects of this can last for 24 hours. [American Heart Association]

For more information:

February American Heart Month. (n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2019, from https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/FebAnnounce.aspx

CDC Features. (2018, February 12). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/index.html

WeAreWellness. (2017, February 10). Heart Health Month – Interesting Facts. Retrieved from https://www.wearewellness.com/2017/02/10/heart-health-month-facts/