Monday, May 21, 2018
Opinion

Focus on your heart health in February

Check the calendar. This week, we celebrated Valentine's Day. Monday gives us Presidents Day. Then Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. A week later, and it's Leap Day, coming exactly 27 days after Groundhog Day.

Almost everything seems to have a have a day or a week assigned to it so people are reminded of the importance of prevention, preservation, promotion or perseverance, depending on the cause.

But the heart has a whole month. February is American Heart Month, and public awareness campaigns seem to be working. Deaths from heart attacks and strokes have gone down over the past decade. The prevalence of obesity seems to be leveling off. People seem to be doing better with smoking.

However, the numbers remain staggering. Cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States, both for men and women, and is responsible for about 17 percent of national health expenditure. Smoking remains the No. 1 cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.

Every 39 seconds, an American will die of cardiovascular disease. Approximately every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event. On average, every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke, resulting in tremendous loss of productivity with enormous disability and discomfort, according to statistics from the American Heart Association.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's heart truth campaign, focusing on heart disease as the No. 1 killer of women, is 10 years old and has managed to increase awareness.

One in four women in the United States die of heart disease while one in 30 die of breast cancer. Actually, more women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer combined.

But by leading a healthy lifestyle, the risk of heart disease can be reduced by up to 82 percent.

All six major cardiovascular risk factors are preventable — smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and inactivity. Other risk factors include depression, stress and pollution. Age, gender and heredity are the only risk factors that cannot be altered, naturally.

When a person puts his or her heart at risk, the organ is liable to retaliate and attack its owner, resulting in heart attack and death.

Primary prevention is the key to reducing the personal and social burden of cardiovascular disease. Social behavior is the door and the human mind is the keyhole. Preventing cardiovascular disease needs to begin at an early age.

The American Heart Association has a campaign that talks about "Life's Simple 7," the seven simple steps to reduce death and disability from cardiovascular disease (visit mylifecheck.heart.org).

They are: stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight, get active, eat better, control cholesterol, manage blood pressure and control blood sugar.

It's election time, so maybe we need catchy phrases to deliver the message: Live and learn; learn to live. Stop heart disease before it starts. Know your numbers to live longer and stronger. Take the measures to enjoy life's pleasures.

And, since it's only February, the second month of the year, how about: Not too late to make a new life resolution.

Dr. Rao Musunuru is a practicing cardiologist in Hudson. He is a member of National Leadership Committee of Clinical Cardiology Council of the American Heart Association and a past member of the advisory council for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

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