Did you know that nearly 75% of all deaths in the United States are linked to only ten separate causes? And did you know that the leading cause for both men and women in that list is heart disease?
Perhaps you are not surprised. Many people know someone or have had a family member afflicted with or die from heart disease. In 2008, heart disease caused a shocking nearly 25% of deaths. Another way of thinking about this is that one in four people that died that year, died to heart disease.
This trend has continued on in recent years. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that approximately 630,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year.
This disease also does not discriminate amongst races. According to the CDC, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most racial/ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, and whites. For Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders and American Indians or Alaska Natives, heart disease is second only to cancer.”
Heart disease is also not cheap. This disease costs the United States approximately $200 billion each and every year—including the costs of health care, medications and lost productivity of patients.
There are many diseases that fall under the term “heart disease”. The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease. In 2015 alone, coronary heart disease was the cause of death for 366,000 Americans.
3 Ways to Take Part in Heart Disease Awareness Month
With all of these troubling statistics, it is easy to be completely overwhelmed and feel like this is an insurmountable problem. But the people at foundations such as The Heart Foundation, Go Red for Women, American Heart Association, and Million Hearts are making great strides to change these statistics. And they could use your help!
This month, February, is Heart Disease Awareness Month or American Heart Month. Across the nation, many different fundraisers and programs are being launched locally to bring light to this pervasive issue. However, there are three things that all Americans can do to take part.
We will discuss these three things and encourage you to take initiative! However, if you know of a local charity or chapter of a national organization that is organizing a local event, make sure you attend! And spread the word to your friends and family!
The first major step in spreading awareness about heart disease is to become aware yourself. It is important to not only know the statistics surrounding this disease, but also risk factors, prevention methods, and symptoms.
The most common risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking. Unfortunately, nearly half of Americans (49%) have at least one of three key risk factors.
Other risk factors include a variety of medical conditions and lifestyle choices such as diabetes, poor diet, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol usage, and overweight or obesity.
Because of these risk factors, doctors recommend a few different measures in order to prevent heart disease. The first recommended prevention method is exercise or physical activity. Doctors recommend that all individuals, but especially those at risk for heart disease, find 150 minutes per week to by active.
Additionally, one major prevention method is to develop healthy eating habits. Doctors recommend including more fruits and vegetables into the American diet. Also, it is recommended to lower sodium, sugar and trans fats
Lastly, it is critical for people at-risk for heart disease to quit smoking once and for all. Cigarettes and other tobacco products affect nearly every organ in the body, including the heart.
Quitting this addiction is difficult, but it is vital for the longevity of one’s life. There are many different methods and support groups available today. If you or someone you know is trying to quit, you might want to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. You will be connected to a trained coach who can provide information and assistance in the quitting process.
Symptoms of Heart Attacks
Heart disease is lethal when it leads to heart attacks. However, many people do not know the symptoms of a heart attack. It is important to be aware of these symptoms—especially if you or someone you know has heart disease.
The most common symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue a few days or weeks before the attack. About 2 out of 3 people who experience heart attacks have one of these symptoms.
A heart attack may manifest as pain in the middle of the chest, which then spreads to the back, neck, jaw or arms. It can also be felt only in the back, jaw or arms rather than the chest at all. In fact, 1 our of every 3 people who have heart attacks do not experience chest pain.
Other symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, sweating, anxiety, bluishness of lips, hands or feet, heavy pounding of the heart, abnormal heart rhythms, loss of consciousness, or disorientation.
Spread the Word
After becoming aware of the risk factors of heart disease, prevention methods for heart disease and symptoms of heart attacks, it’s important to spread the word!
If any of your friends or family members have heart disease or are at-risk for heart disease, discuss these facts and help them develop a manageable prevention plan.
Additionally, spread the word on social media! Throughout the month of February, tweet, share or write about #HeartMonth. Make sure your social media followers and network know about Heart Disease Awareness Month! And increase awareness about the pervasiveness of this deadly disease.
Donate to a Heart Disease Organizations
Lastly, of course, it is always useful to improve heart disease awareness by supporting heart disease organizations through donations.
Some organizations that you can check out include: The Heart Foundation, Go Red for Women, American Heart Association, and Million Hearts. Do your research! Find out which organization is aligned with your goals. And make a pledge!