Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide, taking 17.9 million lives every year. In the United States alone, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) estimated 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by heart disease, a total of nearly 647,000 Americans each year.
The real tragedy behind these staggering numbers is that most cases of heart disease are often preventable. Heart disease does not simply sneak up on a person. There are several lifestyle choices and medical conditions that can lead someone to develop heart disease over time. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to reduce your risk if you know what to do.
With February marking American Health Month, it’s that time of the year again to raise awareness regarding the dangers of heart disease. By working together to educate our community on the facts and prevention techniques, everyone could have a hand in saving a life- even if it’s your own.
Heart disease, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is a range of conditions that could negatively affect your heart. The most common causes of heart disease are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and lack of physical activity.
Though heart disease can be traced back as far as the ancient Egyptians, a recent rise in poor lifestyle changes over the past century has skyrocketed the number of individuals diagnosed with heart conditions.
The most common forms of heart disease are:
Coronary artery disease is the most deadly form of heart disease in our country, contributing to over 370,000 deaths every year. Coronary heart conditions involve the narrowing of the blood vessels and blockages of blood flow to the heart, which lead to two of the most fatal health conditions: heart attacks and strokes.
The C.D.C. reports at least 735,000 Americans experience a heart attack every year. Around 525,000 of these patients suffered their first heart attack, while 210,000 of the patients had at least one prior.
For a long time, people believed that heart attacks were only felt on the left side of the chest and in the left arm. This depiction (popularized by Hollywood films) has been proven wrong time and again and negatively affected when people seek medical treatment for a heart problem.
Symptoms of a heart attack are different for every individual. Some of the most common and uncommon signs signaling the onset of a heart attack described by the American Heart Association include:
Uncommon heart attack symptoms are not just unique to men or women. In fact, the more health experts are learning about heart attacks from patients who have survived them, the more they are discovering that most people are looking for the wrong signs, regardless of their gender.
Start spreading awareness in your home, at work, and in your community by participating in one of the many campaigns going on this month:
Wear Red For Women Day
National Wear Red Day kicked off across the country on February 7 this year. The Wear Red For Women campaign specifically addresses the need to spread awareness about the unique ways that heart disease affects women. At least 80 percent of cardiac events among women could have been prevented if the signs had been noticed sooner. Even though the day to wear red is over, you can still join millions across the country in standing up for women’s heart health and commit to fighting back against heart disease and starting a fundraiser in your community. For more information on how to begin, click here.
Congenital Heart Awareness Week
Adults with heart disease have several ways to prevent the onset of heart disease- babies are a different story. Congenital Heart Disease is a heart defect or disorder that presents from birth. The C.D.C. reports 1 in 4 babies is born with a heart defect that is considered critical, requiring surgery or other medical procedures in the first year of life.
Congenital Heart Awareness Week is a time to help spread more awareness about how these sometimes devastating disorders affect our young. From February 7th to the 14th, health organizations such as Mended Hearts will be launching several ways to get involved via social media campaigns:
For more information on how to get involved in spreading awareness regarding congenital heart health, click here.
It doesn’t take much to reduce your risk of heart disease, and some of the changes are easy to incorporate into your everyday lifestyle. By following these simple recommendations from the American Heart Association, people could significantly reduce their chances of developing heart disease:
The Greater Baltimore Chapter of the American Heart Association is dedicated to creating a world free of heart disease and stroke. By coming together as a community, we can all do our part to raise awareness and make better lifestyle choices to reduce the effects of heart disease for current and future generations.
To get involved in your community, visit Heart.org to find an event in your area, and learn how to make your heart happier and healthier this year.
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