American Heart MonthFebruary is all about hearts and not just the candy kind. Since 1963, February has been proclaimed as American Heart Month to raise awareness to the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Heart disease and stroke combined cause about 2,300 deaths per day in the U.S. along with the following alarming statistics:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women, killing more people than all forms of cancer combined
  • 72% of Americans do not consider themselves to be at risk for heart disease
  • 83% of people believe that heart attacks are preventable yet are not motivated to make heart healthy choices and habits
  • Heart disease affects people of all ages and more young people with an increase in childhood obesity

Heart Disease Risk Factors

Heart disease does not only affect older adults as more younger adults are being diagnosed with heart disease. February is the perfect time to learn more about protecting your heart by learning your risks for heart disease and heart healthy steps you can take. High rates of obesity and high blood pressure are affecting people ages 35 to 64 and putting them at an increased risk for heart disease. Nearly half of all people in the U.S. have at least one of the top three risk factors for developing heart disease:

  • Smoking – smoking damages blood vessels and can cause heart disease. More than 37 million adults in the U.S. are smokers and thousands of younger people start smoking every day. It’s never too late to stop smoking, start your journey today with tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on How to Quit Smoking.
  • High cholesterol – high cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease. Eating unhealthy foods, lack of physical activity, obesity, diabetes and smoking all contribute to high cholesterol levels.
  • High blood pressure – high blood pressure affects millions of Americans and is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Only about half of the people diagnosed with high blood pressure have it under control.

Additional risk factors for developing heart disease include:

  • Diabetes – nearly 1 in 10 people in the U.S. have diabetes which causes sugar to build up in the blood and damages blood vessels.
  • Obesity – more than 1 in 3 Americans are considered to be obese with as many as 1 in 6 children having obesity.
  • Lack of physical activity – adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity to keep blood vessels healthy. Only 1 in 5 adults meet these guidelines for physical activity.
  • Unhealthy diet – only about 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits and vegetable in their diet with most Americans eating a diet too high in sodium. High sodium, salty, diets can increase blood pressure as well as diets high in sugar, trans and saturated fats.

Know your risk factors and do what you can to reduce your risk. Manage health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Make a commitment to eating healthy foods and getting enough physical activity. You’ll feel better, have more energy and will be taking good care of your heart.

Heart Attack Symptoms

A heart attack occurs when an artery is blocked with plaque making blood flow difficult and can occur suddenly. A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, may be preceded with symptoms and requires immediate medical attention. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack as part of the heart may die from lack of blood flow and the sooner a patient receives medical attention the better chance they have for survival and quality of life.

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort including a feeling of pressure or squeezing in the left or center of the chest
  • Feeling dizzy, light headed or unusually tired
  • Vomiting or feeling nauseous
  • A cold sweat
  • Feelings of an upset stomach and heartburn
  • Discomfort or pain in the upper body such as shoulders, back, arms, neck, jaw and upper stomach above the belly button

Do not ignore any of these symptoms, not everyone will experience the same symptoms of a heart attack which may develop slowly over days or weeks or they may come on suddenly. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms including being short of breath, having chest pain or excessive tiredness that lasts for several days.

Take Control of Your Heart Health

Heart disease can be prevented by practicing heart healthy habits such as managing health conditions, exercising, eating healthy and stopping smoking. If you have high blood pressure, work with your health care team to learn how to manage and prevent high blood pressure. The CDC offers an American Heart Month Toolkit, with many resources for controlling blood pressure.

Follow the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP) on Twitter to stay in touch with heart healthy tips and encouragement to control high blood pressure. Commit to aerobic activity at least 150 minutes each week, it’s fine to break up the activity with 10 minute breaks after 30 minutes of activity. GWIC cares about your health and encourages you to make heart healthy choices a long term habit.

Greater Waterbury Imaging Center offers Cardiac MR imaging as part of our commitment to providing the best level of medical imaging services. Cardiac MR imaging provides an additional tool to diagnose coronary artery disease and to quantify myocardial viability. Contact us to learn more about Cardiac MRI and for all your MR imaging needs.