Did you know in 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first to proclaim the month of February as American Heart Month in efforts to bring awareness to the American people? Heart disease is, and has been, the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. One person dies every 36 seconds in the US from cardiovascular disease (CVD). About 659,000 people in the US, or 1 in 4 people, die each year from CVD.
What is cardiovascular disease? Cardiovascular disease refers to several types of heart conditions with the most common being coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is associated with plaque buildup in our arteries; the tiny little ones that provide blood flow to our heart, known as our coronary arteries. Without enough blood flow to an area means there will be a lack of oxygen to that area as well. When there isn’t sufficient oxygen being provided, that is when we start experiencing signs and symptoms of discomfort; worst cases scenario being tissue death and/or mortality.
Our heart is a muscle, just like the ones in our arms and legs. If we pull a muscle in our arm or leg, it generally stays in that local area. We normally see a bruise, or we move in a certain way and we feel a pop, either way it’s obvious and we know we must tend to it if we want to feel better. If we get an injury to our heart muscle, you won’t see a bruise on your chest telling you there’s something wrong and it may not be super obvious. That’s why paying attention to signs and symptoms is a priority and going to your primary care doctor annually for labs and a check up are important. If we know something is going on we can help prevent it or monitor it, CVD does not need to be a death sentence.
Three big takeaways that I want you to leave a good understanding with are: Signs and Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Prevention.
Signs and Symptoms: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, shortness of breath, fluttering feeling in the chest, swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.
There are two types of risk factors, modifiable and non-modifiable. Modifiable risk factors are things that are in our control to change; lifestyle, activity, nutrition, weight. Non-modifiable risk factors are things you cannot control; age, race, gender, genetics. Genetics only account for 20% of our health outcomes and 50% is attributed to our lifestyle choices. After we change our modifiable risk factors and notice things aren’t changing favorable over time, consult with your doctor to possibly consider medication. Medications can be helpful to maintain desirable ranges for things like blood pressure, cholesterol, A1C, etc.
Some risk factors for CVD are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, overweight and obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.
Ways to help prevent CVD are stop smoking or using tobacco, move for at least 30 minutes a day, eat a heart healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, get good sleep, manage stress, and get regular health screenings.
Preventing heart disease can be challenging and overwhelming. If that sounds like you, please reach out to a professional for help. Be sure to utilize our free educational resources at: https://fullsclaefit.com/resources/ for various health and wellness calculators, nutrition database, exercise database, and so much more.
Author: Quinn Butler, MS, CEP, Full Scale Fitness Personal Trainer
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 27). About heart disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/about.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Prevalence of heart disease — United States, 2005. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5606a2.htm#:~:text=Heart%20disease%20has%20been%20the,a%20major%20cause%20of%20disability
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, January 14). Top strategies to prevent heart disease. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/
- Proclamation 3566-american heart month, 1964. Proclamation 3566-American Heart Month, 1964 | The American Presidency Project. (1963, December 30). Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/proclamation-3566-american-heart-month-1964#:~:text=Johnson%2C%20President%20of%20the%20United,States%20to%20issue%20similar%20proclamations