Will be you be a victim of America’s number one killer?
February Is American Heart Month
In addition to being America’s number one killer, cardiovascular disease is also a major cause of disability. Even if our hearts are healthy now, let’s be mindful of the hard-working heart that keeps us alive. Learn the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.
Surprising Facts About Cardiovascular Disease
- More than 82 million American adults are estimated to have one or more types of cardiovascular disease—that’s one in three people.
- On average, 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day.
- Heart disease is the number one cause of death among women twenty and older, killing about one woman every minute.
- More women die of heart disease than of the next four causes of death combined—including all forms of cancer.
- Approximately 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
- Between 70 and 89 percent of sudden cardiac events occur in men.
- A report by the Institute of Medicine finds that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger a heart attack.
Warning Signs of Heart Attack
Some heart attacks come on quickly and with intense symptoms, but most begin with mild pain or discomfort, leading victims to delay medical care. Signs of a potential heart attack are:
- Discomfort, pressure, or pain in the center of the chest, sometimes going away and returning later.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath.
- Cold sweats, nausea, lightheadedness.
The American Heart Association, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the American Red Cross, and the National Council on Aging have launched the Act in Time  campaign to increase awareness of heart attack signs and symptoms and the importance of calling 9-1-1 before it’s too late. Delay could prove fatal.
Warning Signs of Stroke
- Weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially if it is concentrated on one side of the body.
- Confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding.
- Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.
- Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, trouble walking.
- Severe headache of unknown origin.
Every second counts—heart attacks and strokes are life-threatening! Seek medical care immediately.
Lifestyle and Cardiovascular Disease
High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. These may be controlled by diet and exercise.
- Diet: A healthy diet  is one of the easiest ways to fight heart disease. Forget about fad diets and pledge to read food labels and eat healthy—for life. Beware of saturated and trans fats, cut back on foods high in cholesterol, reduce sugar and sodium intake. Control portion sizes. If you have too much fat—especially if a lot of it is located in your waist area—you’re at higher risk of heart disease.
- Exercise: Lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease and indirectly increases the risk of stroke. A little exercise  goes a long way! Thirty minutes of moderate activity each day can be broken up into ten-minute intervals. If it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised, start small and work your way up. Walking  is a great way to begin moving toward a healthier future.
- Tobacco smoke: Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States and a major cause of cardiovascular heart disease. Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk, even for smokers. Women smokers who use birth control pills have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke than nonsmokers who use them.
Affordable Care Act and Heart Disease
Under the Affordable Care Act, all new individual and group health plans must now provide recommended preventive care and services with no co-payment, co-insurance, or deductible—that includes blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, and body mass index tests and counseling on quitting smoking, losing weight, and maintaining a proper diet.
Originally published on Care2