It’s February, which means it’s American Heart Month. This is the time of year when we direct our focus on the leading cause of death in the United States – heart disease.
To celebrate the importance of this month, we’ll now provide some statistics you should know about heart disease in the United States and some helpful tips and suggestions to improve your cardiovascular health.
What is Heart Disease?
Put simply, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) defines heart disease as a blanket term that covers any condition that affects the function and structure of your heart.
Cardiovascular disease falls under this category and refers to any disease impacting your heart or blood vessels.
What Medical Emergencies Stem from Heart Disease?
The NHBLI lays out the main types of medical emergencies that are caused by heart disease, including:
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction): Occurs when the flow of blood bringing oxygen to your heart is blocked, keeping your heart from getting the oxygen it needs to function; after a certain amount of time without oxygen has passed, the heart tissue will die
- Cardiac arrest: This happens when the heart suddenly stops pumping, keeping blood from flowing to your vital organs like the brain, lungs, etc.
- Stroke (transient ischemic attack or cerebrovascular accident): Blood flow to the brain gets blocked, preventing it from getting essential oxygen and nutrients, which causes cells to die in a matter of minutes
How Many People in the US Does Heart Disease Affect?
According to the latest U.S. Census study, heart disease kills nearly 700,000 Americans each year. This means that 1 out of every 3 deaths in the United States stems from heart disease, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Plus, the U.S. Census report points out that almost 50% of all adults in the country have at least one major risk factor for heart disease. This isn’t exclusive just to older adults either. The CDC explains that the data currently shows cardiovascular disease is on the rise in younger populations.
Is Heart Disease Preventable?
The good news is that the American Heart Association (AHA) states that most cases of heart disease are preventable for people with a healthy lifestyle. In practice, this looks like:
- Not smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Controlling blood sugar and cholesterol
- Treating high blood pressure
- Getting >150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week
- Scheduling regular checkups with your doctor
This is further supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), which claims that 80% of premature heart attacks and strokes are preventable.
By spreading awareness about the prevalence of heart disease and the steps we can take to improve cardiovascular health, American Heart Month hopes to continue to educate adults in the U.S. so we can live longer and healthier lives.