As thoughts turn to Valentine’s Day, perhaps we should pay more attention to our hearts — not only romantically, but physically — and give them a little TLC.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
You are at risk of heart disease if you:
- are a woman over the age of 55
- are a man over the age of 45
- have a family history of early heart disease
Heart Attack Warning Signs
- Chest discomfort or pain. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes — or goes away and returns. It may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This may include the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath.
- Cold sweat.
It is a common misconception that men are more vulnerable to heart attack than women, but heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. The signs and symptoms of heart attack may be different. Just like men, the most common symptom of heart attack in women is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are a bit more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, back pain, or jaw pain.
Check out this wonderful video: Elizabeth Banks in It’s Just a Little Heart Attack
Stroke Warning Signs
- Numbness of the face or limbs.
- Difficulty with speech or cognition.
- Visual disturbances.
- Trouble walking and loss of balance.
- Severe headache.
When minutes matter, do not delay. Call 9-1-1 immediately.
Living a Heart-Healthy Life
There are some factors beyond our control, but there’s a lot we can do to cut down our our heart disease risk.
- Maintain a sensible diet and a healthy weight, controlling cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Don’t start smoking — quit smoking — avoid second-hand smoke.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation.
Contact your local Red Cross to find out where you can learn CPR. These skills can help save the life of someone who has sudden cardiac arrest.
Statement from Secretary Sebelius on American Heart Month:
February is American Heart Month; a month to spread awareness about the importance of heart health. Each year, countless American families are impacted by heart disease and stroke. Although its risk factors can be prevented or controlled, it is still the leading cause of death for all Americans, and accounts for $1 out of every $6 dollars spent on health care. Fortunately, there are many simple steps we can take to prevent heart disease such as eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and not smoking.
The Department of Health and Human Services is working with both public and private partners to raise awareness of heart disease through vital research investments and public health programs. The Million Hearts Initiative takes aim at this disease, with a goal of preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next 5 years. Other efforts, like the HeartTruth, which addresses women’s heart health, and the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, which confronts childhood obesity by helping children choose healthy foods and stay active, work to provide people with resources and ways to make heart healthy changes in their everyday lives .
And thanks to the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, new health plans must now cover recommended preventive services, including blood pressure screening for all adults and cholesterol screening for adults of certain ages or at higher risk, cost-free.
This month, as we take time to educate ourselves about the risks of heart disease, and recognize the efforts of medical researchers and healthcare professionals dedicated to prevention, early detection, and effective treatment, consider what steps you and your family can take to promote and adopt a heart healthy lifestyle.
It’s American Hearth Month. We can all use a reminder to give our heart the TLC it deserves, so spread the word!
More Information: American Heart Association
Photo credit: iStock/Thinkstock