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February is American Heart Month

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Each month the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (part of the US Department of Health and Human Services) selects National Health Observances (NHOs) that highlight issues affecting health across the nation. 

One of the highlights in February is heart health.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) sponsors American Heart Month each February to raise awareness about heart disease and ways people can keep their heart healthy. 

Risk factors for heart disease include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Physical inactivity
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Stress

Warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Arm, jaw, neck, back, or upper abdominal pain
  • Sweating

It’s important to note that not all heart attacks have obvious symptoms and some people may experience only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. If you suspect you or someone else is having a heart attack, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Additionally, other warning signs of heart disease can include angina (chest pain), heart palpitations (irregular heartbeats), and swelling in the legs, ankles and feet.

What are the most commonly prescribed medications for preventing heart attacks?

There are several medications that are commonly prescribed to prevent heart attacks in people who are at high risk for heart disease but have not yet had a heart attack. Some of these medications include:

  • Aspirin: Aspirin helps to prevent blood clots from forming, which can cause heart attacks and strokes.
  • Statins: Statins are a class of medications that lower cholesterol levels in the blood, reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Blood pressure-lowering medications: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, and blood pressure-lowering medications are often prescribed, such as:

It’s important to note that the best course of treatment will depend on an individual’s specific medical history, risk factors, and overall health, and a doctor or cardiologist should be consulted to determine the most appropriate preventive measures for each individual.

What about lifestyle changes?

Lifestyle changes that can help improve heart health include:

  • Eating a healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein
  • Exercising regularly, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not smoking or quitting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Managing stress through techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga
  • Getting enough sleep, aiming for 7-9 hours per night
  • Controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels through medication, as prescribed by a doctor
  • Reducing exposure to secondhand smoke.

Making these lifestyle changes can lower your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health and well-being.

The American Heart Association’s Health Behaviors 8 is a set of metrics to help assess heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease. It is designed to help people improve and maintain their heart health. It includes the following eight lifestyle changes:

  • Manage Blood Pressure
  • Control Cholesterol
  • Lower Blood Sugar
  • Be More Active
  • Eat Better
  • Lose Weight
  • Quit Smoking
  • Get Better Sleep

These metrics are designed to be simple and achievable, with the goal of helping individuals take control of their heart health. By following the AHA’s 8 Health Behaviors, you can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health and well-being. The AHA provides resources and support to help you make these lifestyle changes and achieve their goals.

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