News: February - American Heart Month

Some General Facts:

1. Heart Disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

2. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease.

3. About 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year - that is 1 in every 4 deaths.

4. The term "Heart Disease" refers to several types of heart conditions.  The most common type is coronary artery disease, which can cause a heart attack.  Other kinds of heart disease may involve the valves of the heart, or the heart may not pump well and cause heart failure.  Some people are born with heart disease. 

Heart Attack Warning Signs:  Do not wait to get help if you experience any of these heart attack warning signs. 

1. Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes - or it may go away and then return.  It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

2. Discomfort in other areas of the upper body:  Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in the left arm, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

3. Shortness of breath:  This can occur with or without chest discomfort.

4. Other signs:  Other possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness. 

Major Heart Disease Risk Factors you can modify, treat or control:

1. Tobacco Smoke: The risk that smokers will develop coronary heart disease is much higher than that for nonsmokers.  Cigarette smoking is a powerful independent risk factor for sudden cardiac death in patients with coronary heart disease.  Cigarette smoking also interacts with other risk factors to greatly increase the risk for coronary heart disease.  Exposure to other people's smoke increases the risk of heart disease even for nonsmokers.  CDC's Office on Smoking and Health Web site has information on quitting smoking.

2. Obesity and Being Overweight:  People who have excess body fat - especially if a lot of it is at the waist - are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, even if those same people have no other risk factors.  Overweight and obese adults with risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar can make lifestyle changes to lose weight and produce significant reductions in risk factors such as triglycerides, blood glucose, GbA1c and risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.  Many people may have difficulty losing weight.  But for those above a healthy weight, a sustained weight loss of 3 to 5 percent of your body weight may lead to significant reduction in some risk factors.  Greater sustained weight losses can improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose.  CDC's Healthy Weight Web site includes information and tools to help you lose weight. 

3. Diet and Nutrition:  A healthy diet is one of the best weapons you have to fight cardiovascular disease.  What you eat (and how much) can affect other controllable risk factors, such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight.  Choose nutrient-rich foods, which have vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients, but are lower in calories than nutrient foods.  Choose a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits and whole grains.  A heart-healthy diet also includes low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts and nontropical vegetable oils.  Be sure to limit your intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats.  To maintain a healthy weight, coordinate your diet with your physical activity level so you are using us as many calories as you take in.  Tips on reducing saturated fat in your diet are available on the Web site for CDC's Division for Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity.

4. High Blood Cholesterol:  As your blood cholesterol rises, so does your risk of coronary heart disease.  When other risk factors (such as high blood pressure and tobacco smoke) are also present this risk increases even more.  A person's cholesterol level is also affected by age, sex, heredity, and diet.  Here is the lowdown on:

- Total Cholesterol - Your total cholesterol score is calculated using the following equation:  HDL + LDL + 20 percent of your triglyceride level.

- Low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol = "bad" cholesterol - A low LDL cholesterol level is considered good for your heart health.  However, your LDL number should not be the main factor in guiding treatment to prevent heart attack and stroke, according to the latest guidelines from the American Heart Association.  Lifestyle factors, such as a diet high in saturated and trans fats, can raise LDL cholesterol.

- High-density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol = "good" cholesterol - With HDL (good) cholesterol, higher levels are typically better.  Low HDL cholesterol puts you at higher risk for heart disease.  People with high blood triglycerides usually also have lower HDL cholesterol.  Genetic factors, Type 2 diabetes, smoking, being overweight and being sedentary can all result in lower HDL cholesterol.

- Triglycerides - Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body.  Normal triglyceride levels vary by age and sex.  A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is associated with atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits inside artery walls that increases the risk for heart attack and stroke.

5. High Blood Pressure:  High blood pressure increases the heart's workload, causing the heart muscle to thicken and become stiffer.  This stiffening of the heart muscle is not normal and causes the heart to function abnormally.  It also increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and congestive heart failure.

6. Physical Inactivity:  An inactive lifestyle is a risk factor for coronary heart disease.  Regular, moderate to vigorous physical activity helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.  Physical activity can help control blood cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.  It can also help to lower blood pressure in some people.

7. Diabetes:  Diabetes seriously increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.  Even when glucose levels are under control, diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.  The risks are even greater if blood sugar is not well-controlled.  At least 68 percent of people with diabetes over 65  years of age die of some form of heart disease.  Among that same group, 16 percent die of stroke.  If you have diabetes, be sure to work with your doctor to manage it and control any other risk factors that you can.  To help manage blood sugar, people with diabetes who are obese or overweight should make lifestyle changes, such as eating better or getting regular physical activity.

8. Stress:  Individual response to stress may be a contributing factor for heart attacks.  Some scientists have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person's life, along with their health behaviors and socioeconomic status.  These factors may affect established risk factors.  For example, people under stress may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they otherwise would.

9. Alcohol:  Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, and increase your risk for cardiomyopathy, stroke, cancer, and other disease.  It can also contribute to high triglycerides and produce irregular heartbeats.  Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption contributes to obesity, alcoholism, suicide, and accidents.  All that said, there is a protective benefit to moderate alcohol consumption.  If you drink, limit your alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women.  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines one drink as 1 1/2 fluid ounces (fl. oz.) of 80 proof sprits (such as bourbon, scotch, vodka, gin, etc.), 5 fl. oz. of wine or 12 fl. oz. of regular beer.  It is not recommended that nondrinkers start using alcohol or that drinkers increase the amount they drink.  

February 4, 2021