Thanks to Valentine’s Day, February is known as the month of love. During this time, love of others, self-love, and self-care come to the forefront. So, too, does attention to the heart – and ways that we can be good to our bodies to prevent cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of Americans.
In the United States, February is annually recognized as heart healthy month. It is the time of year when focus is on cardiovascular health and wellness. The inspiration began with President Lyndon B. Johnson, an influential man who was among the millions of people who’d had heart attacks. In his desire to bring this important health issue to the forefront, he acknowledged the afflicted and the “…staggering physical and economic loss to the nation…” Thus, he issued the first proclamation in 1964 to wage a nation-wide attack on heart disease. He sought to support government-sponsored heart and blood vessel disease awareness programs, as well as encourage research, education, and community service to create public awareness. Since then, all U.S. presidents have annually recognized February as American Heart Month. For some, heart disease is entirely preventable. Fortunately, hope persists in the reduction of and/ or prevention of CVD in some individuals who model heart healthy behaviors. Let’s examine some ways in which better heart health may be achieved.
- Talk to your doctor. It’s important to pay attention to your heart health. A great way to do that is to have open and honest discussions with your doctor to assess your risks and follow through with testing that can provide a picture of your heart health. Remember that genetics play a part in one’s overall health and even in some heart conditions. For example, per Nebraska Medicine, studies suggest that 50% of coronary artery disease (CAD) is set at birth through genetic makeup. The other half is determined by lifestyle or environmental factors. Smoking is one example of a lifestyle habit that is linked to negative health impacts. So be sure to share with your doctor information on your family heart history, lifestyle choices, and other conditions that may adversely affect your health. Together, you and your physician can implement changes to protect your heart and keep you living strong.
- Eat and drink properly for good heart health. This includes choosing the best foods that are good for your body (such as heart healthy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean meats, fish, healthy oils, etc.) and consuming less or eliminating those foods which are considered bad for us (unhealthy processed meats, carbohydrates, trans fats, high sugar, or high salt foods, etc.) In fact, high levels of fats and cholesterol in the body can present danger in the form of blood clots. Poor eating habits affect all aspects of health, not just the heart, so a nutritious diet is beneficial for overall wellness. Note that chronic heavy drinkers my also face higher risks of dying from heart disease, so do guard what you drink. When possible, choose heart healthy beverages such as green superfood drinks in place of sugary sodas and juices. It’s also good to drink plain old water to stay hydrated and to help your body properly function.
- Exercise for ideal health. Docs say it’s important for people to exercise regularly about 30-minutes a day and for at least five days a week. Some of the best exercises for the heart include brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis, and jumping rope, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. These heart-pumping aerobic exercises are what doctors generally suggest when they suggest 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. Fitness is key to living healthful but do seek the advice of your physician before beginning any new exercise routines.
- Stay educated. There are lots of wonderful programs designed to educate segments of the population on heart health. For example, the CDC sponsors a campaign called “Live to the Beat,” aimed at reducing risk and occurrence of CVD amongst Black adults aged 35 to 54, a group adversely and predominantly affected by heart disease. However, it’s important to note that heart issues span all races, sexes, and ages and are not exclusive to one group. Tragically, CVD is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States and is also the leading cause of death worldwide. To change this statistic, focus needs to zero-in on education and sharing of the good news that many heart-associated problems can be prevented by positive lifestyle changes.
Lyndon B. Johnson did his part in establishing the urgency for folks to “give heed to the nationwide problem of the heart and blood vessel diseases…” and to work toward solutions. Shortly after, the first Surgeon General’s report demonstrated the dangers of smoking and shared the effects of the public health burden. In the words of former President Trump, “We know that individuals can live longer and better lives by refraining from tobacco use, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.” He urged companies to give people more access to information so they can use it to make better informed and health-conscious choices.
Knowing how to do CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is also essential to saving lives. Visit https://www.redcross.org (CPR steps/perform CPR) and https://cpr.heart.org (What is CPR/American Heart Association CPR & First Aid)
- Adult CPR consists of chest compressions (and sometimes rescue breathing or a combo) to help get oxygen-rich blood to the brain to restart breathing.
- The key is to call 911, remain calm, lay the person on their back and check breathing, and start CPR if no breathing.
- Remember to push fast and hard and perform 30 chest compressions then two rescue breaths (if needed) and repeat until ambulance or automated external defibrillator arrives.
- To do the 30 chest compressions, place one of your hands on top of the other and clasp them together. With the heel of hands and straight elbows, push hard and fast in the center of the chest, slightly below the nipples. Push at least 2 inches deep and compress the chest at a rate of at least 100 times per minute. Let the chest rise fully between compressions.
This article is purely informational only and is not intended as medical advice. Please visit the websites listed above to learn more about lifesaving CPR techniques and to gain further understanding on how to treat adults versus infants and children.