February is American Heart Month!
February is American Heart Month! This month is all about keeping people aware and involved in making sure their heart is taken care of and is designed to help people focus on their cardiovascular health. President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first president to declare a National Heart Month in 1964, and since then, U.S. presidents have declared it Heart Month. One of the more important ways that the CDC is making the public aware of American Heart Month is through the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, which is shining a light on hypertension, one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke.
Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure. In 2019, more than half a million deaths were related to hypertension. If you have high blood pressure, a health professional may put you on a heart-healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a heart-healthy diet, avoiding alcohol, getting regular physical activity, quitting smoking, managing your stress, and getting good sleep.
For this event, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has published many different resources to help you and others get involved with advocating and bringing knowledge to yourself and to the public!
First, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute wants you to know about stress and how it affects the heart, and how you can lower your own stress! When we get stressed, our bodies tend to increase blood pressure and heart rate, especially in a way that is not healthy. The earlier people learn how to de-stress, the healthier their hearts will be! Instead of being stressed, our hearts should be relaxed - so here are some relaxation tips!
The first is meditation. You want to be in a quiet location, with few distractions. Get comfortable, sitting or lying down. Focus on your breathing, or use another meditation trick for more focused exercises! If you like meditation, there are several apps and programs that can help you get more focused during meditation.
The other is progressive muscle relaxation. This is when you tighten individual muscles and then release the tension. Start by tensing your toes, then releasing, and moving up the body going one muscle group at a time. This will help you relax your body and help your heart out in the long run.
You can do both of these techniques by yourself or find a teacher or class to help you get started. They may take some practice, so be patient with yourself!
Similarly, we also want to practice self-care when we focus on taking care of our hearts. There are many things that we can do every day to help our hearts be at their best performance. We all know that doing 30 minutes of exercise every day, eating healthy, and getting 8 hours of sleep is good practice to keep our hearts healthy. But we also have to remember that our heart health is constantly changing, and so one of the most important things we can do is to go get checked out by a health professional and talk to them about your health.
Not only is it important to recognize the importance of keeping ourselves healthy, it is also important to see the signs, symptoms, and differences of the different types of diseases that can occur to the heart. More than 800,000 people die of cardiovascular disease every year in the United States. Coronary heart disease is a disease in which the arteries of the heart are clogged with plaque (a combination of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood) - you may have also heard this as being called atherosclerosis. This plaque that builds up reduces the amount of blood that can get to your heart, causing chest pain (also known as angina) and can even cause blood clots, ultimately leading to a heart attack.
Another cardiovascular disease that is very common is heart disease. Heart disease is an umbrella term for many other subsections of disease, but it mainly describes the deterioration of the heart’s structure and function. All heart diseases are cardiovascular diseases, but not all cardiovascular diseases are heart diseases. Nearly 650,000 Americans die from heart diseases every year, and about 11% of American adults (every 1 in 9) have been diagnosed with heart disease. In Indiana alone, about 366,000 people have heart disease, coronary heart disease being the most common found in the state.
Now more than ever, it is important to take care of your heart and make sure it stays healthy by looking at these tips and making sure you are following what your health professional says about keeping yourself healthy. By being a future health professional, you are one step closer to helping your heart and doing your own research to ensure you stay as healthy as possible.