February is all about the heart – and we’re not only talking about Valentine’s Day. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, making “Heart Month” the ideal time to help raise awareness for this serious yet treatable epidemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. That’s one in every four deaths.
While cardiovascular disease (CVD) can affect anyone, gender, race, and ethnicity can increase the risk for the disease. Other contributing factors to CVD include high blood pressure, smoking (as well as secondhand smoke), obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
A number of organizations, including the American Heart Association (AHA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have found racial and ethnic minority populations confront more barriers to CVD diagnosis and care due to a number of complex factors. Differences among African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans in terms of rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and tobacco use can also present a greater risk of developing heart disease.
Are you at greater risk for developing CVD? Visiting your doctor to have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked is a good first step in determining your risk. If you are at risk for CVD, your doctor will likely tell you to consider making some key lifestyle changes, which can include:
If these changes aren’t making enough of an impact, your doctor may consider additional steps, such as medication, medical and surgical procedures, and cardiac rehabilitation.
During Heart Month, take steps to ensure you and your loved ones are in the know about the conditions associated with CVD, precautions you can take, and management tips you can use to make positive changes your life.