February is American Heart Month



No, not because Valentines Day is this month! It is because we all need to be more aware and take care of that important muscle, our heart! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke are high blood pressure, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and secondhand smoke exposure, obesity, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity.

High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol

High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke because it damages the lining of the arteries, making them more susceptible to the buildup of plaque, which narrows the arteries leading to the heart and brain.

High LDL cholesterol can double a person’s risk of heart disease. That’s because excess cholesterol can build up in the walls of arteries and limit blood flow to a person’s heart, brain, kidneys, other organs, and legs.

People can improve their blood pressure and cholesterol levels by eating a healthy diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking medicines as recommended.

Diabetes

Adults with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as people who do not have diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar from diabetes can damage blood vessels in the heart and block blood vessels leading to the brain, causing a stroke. More than 2 in 3 people with diabetes have high blood pressure. Diabetes also raises triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.

Smoking and Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Smoking is a major cause of heart disease and stroke and causes 1 in every 4 deaths from these conditions. Smoking can damage the body several ways by:

  • Raising triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) and lowering high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, also called “good” cholesterol.
  • Making blood sticky and more likely to clot, which can block blood flow to the heart and brain.
  • Damaging cells that line the blood vessels.
  • Increasing the buildup of plaque (fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances) in blood vessels.
  • This causes thickening and narrowing of blood vessels.

About 34 million US adults smoke cigarettes, and every day, about 1,600 young people under age 18 try their first cigarette.

Obesity, Unhealthy Diet, and Physical Inactivity

Compared to those at a normal weight, people with high weight or obesity are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke and their risk factors, including high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and type 2 diabetes. In the United States, nearly 74% of adults are overweight or obese.

A healthy diet can reduce a person’s chances of getting heart disease. A healthy diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins. It limits saturated and trans-fat, added sugars, and sodium.

Physical inactivity can also lead to heart disease—even for people who have no other risk factors. It can increase the chance of other risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Only 24% of adults and 16.5% of high school students meet the guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.

Source:

Heart Disease and Stroke. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/heart-disease-stroke.htm#:~:text=Leading%20risk%20factors%20for%20heart,unhealthy%20diet%2C%20and%20physical%20inactivity.

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