Last month, February 2019, was not only Black History Month it was also Heart Health Awareness Month per the American Heart Association. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States.
Generally, heart disease is considered a man’s disease, but more black and white women die of heart disease than all cancers combined. About 610,000 men and women die of heart disease each year and it accounts for one in four deaths in both genders. Coronary Heart Disease is the most common type and accounts for over half of these deaths.
Coronary heart disease increases the risk for heart attacks and over 700,000 Americans have heart attacks each year.
Like other serious health issues, African Americans have disproportionately high rates of heart disease. Every month for 49 million African Americans should be heart health awareness month.
The three largest risk factors that lead to fatal heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Diabetes, Obesity, poor diet, physical
inactivity, and excess drinking are other risk factors. There are other lifestyle concerns that can also lead to high blood pressure and obesity such as poor sleep and high stress levels.
Heart disease signs and symptoms are chest pain and discomfort, nausea, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, sweating, upper body pain or discomfort (jaw, arms, neck, upper back, upper stomach). If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms you should call 9-1-1 immediately.
Now that I have your attention at least for a moment, there are specific ways to improve your heart health. Know your heart-related numbers. Get your primary care doctor at least once per year to check your blood pressure, heart rate, BMI (body mass index), and cholesterol.
High blood pressure or hypertension is called the “Silent Killer” because many people have no symptoms of their blood pressure being high. Your doctor will also screen you for depression and other conditions depending on your age and risk factors.
Check your weight at home often (daily, weekly, monthly) to make sure that you are not gaining weight. Many people gain 5 pounds per year without awareness and that adds up over the years. The goal is a blood pressure under 130/80 and a heart rate between 60 and 80.
Smoking cigarettes is not good for your health and in particular smoking is not good for a healthy heart. If you smoke, you should consider the health benefits of “stop smoking.”
Consistent exercise is also important to keep your heart healthy. Be Active: at least 30 minutes five days per week. Think about how you can move naturally in your home. Can you walk more in your home? Can you routinely bike or lift weights or stretch? Make a plan to walk more by setting goals for how much you want to walk, how often, and how you will track your progress (pedometer, stopwatch, timer, calendar, etc).
Eat a ”Heart Healthy Diet.” Of course there will always be a range of strategies and objectives to help maintain having a healthy heart. Diet is another user-friendly item. In other words, you can control your personal daily diet. Overweight and obesity, are both related to diet. Studies have concluded that a “Mediterranean Diet” has consistently been shown to be the preferred diet for heart health. It is not actually a diet but the way that people in Mediterranean cultures eat for their whole lives. It consists of small amounts of meat, fish, and dairy but is mostly plant based.