February is American Heart Month

The following blog post is written by Heather Myers, Community Health Educator for Summit Health.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease and approximately every 40 seconds, an American will have a heart attack.

In many communities across the U.S., heart disease death rates are increasing among adults ages 35 to 64 years. Not only are more younger adults dying of heart disease, but their rates of risk factors such as physical inactivity, tobacco use, and hypertension, are also increasing.  

What does this mean for you?

Consider your heart’s health and the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7: not-smoking, physical activity, healthy diet, body weight, and control of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

Smoking- Smoking decreases HDL (the good) cholesterol and many studies have found that cigarette smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease which may lead to heart attack, according to the American Heart Association. If you are a current smoker and looking for community support, check out the Freedom from Smoking program provided by Healthy Communities Partnership. 

Physical Activity- People who get regular moderate to vigorous physical activity can reduce their risk for heart disease by 30-40% and stroke by 25%. Physical activity boosts levels of HDL (the good) cholesterol and may also help to lower blood pressure. Try to get 150 minutes of activity every week- this can be as simple as walking 3-4 days a week! Summit Health’s free Get Fit Now program can help you get started towards the path to a more active lifestyle and, as a bonus, participants get a free Fit Bit! Classes start on a rolling basis throughout 2018. Learn more here.

Healthy Diet- One component of eating a heart healthy diet revolves around balancing the amount of salt you eat from day to day- this can be challenging. In fact, the American Heart Association has found that 9 out of 10 Americans eat too much salt every day. Eating a diet high in salt can contribute to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. Community members can learn more about shopping for a healthy heart with Summit Health’s free Heart Healthy Grocery Store Tours

Body Weight- People who are at a healthy weight are less likely to develop high blood pressure and other chronic diseases such as heart disease. Many factors can contribute to a person’s weight, which can make weight management tricky. A key theme to keep in mind when trying to manage weight for heart health is considering your daily energy balance. Is the amount of energy or calories you’re getting from the foods and drinks you consume (energy IN) balanced with the energy your body is using through physical activity and movement (energy OUT)? It’s the balance over time that helps you maintain a healthy weight. Find health articles, health calculators, and other resources on Summit Health’s Wellness Hub that just may help you as you go about managing your weight.  

Cholesterol- Did you know that cholesterol is a waxy substance and it’s not all bad? Your body needs cholesterol to build cells, but too much of it can be a problem. High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke and if you have other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, or diabetes with high cholesterol, your overall risk increases even more. Learn more about the differences between the “good” and the “bad” cholesterol here.

Blood Pressure- High blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. This number measures the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels. Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure and many of them don’t even know they have it. Learn more about how you can control your blood pressure here and have a conversation with your doctor if you are concerned: 

Blood Sugar- Compared with people who don’t have diabetes, people who have diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease, may develop heart disease at younger age, and may develop more severe heart disease. Monitoring and managing blood sugar is crucial for a healthy heart! If you are concerned about your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, check out Summit Health’s free National Diabetes Prevention Program Prevent T2.

So now, where do you go from here?

If you are concerned about your risk for heart disease, have a conversation with your primary care provider. He or she can help you understand more about your specific risk factors and develop a plan.

Find more heart health resources here: https://www.summithealth.org/HealthyHeart.

Together, we can inspire hope for a healthier heart!