Big red hearts are everywhere this month, urging us to recognize those we love and also give a little love to ourselves. But besides showing Cupid the way this Valentine’s Day, the hearts are a powerful symbol of one of the most important observances in healthcare at home: Heart Month.
American Heart Month is celebrated each February, urging everyone to focus on their heart health. By paying attention their heart health, people can improve or prevent conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?
When you look at different racial groups, the data is especially troubling. Black and African Americans are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic White people. They’re also both 40% more likely to have high blood pressure and less likely to have it under control. As February is also Black History Month, a time when we recognize the contributions and importance of Black and African Americans in our society, it’s the perfect time to discuss ways to improve their heart health.
Fortunately, there are many things Black and African Americans – and all Americans – can do to improve their heart health and limit the chance of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Start with a visit to your doctor. Talk about your specific risk factors and ask what you should do to improve your heart health.
Common risk factors that increase a person’s risk of heart disease are:
- High blood pressure: Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure can cause permanent heart damage before you ever notice any symptoms. There are effective medications that can help you manage high blood pressure. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, you should remember to check it regularly – take a minute to stop by the blood pressure cuff at your local pharmacy the next time you’re picking up a prescription.
- Being overweight or obese: About 76% of Black and African Americans are overweight or obese, as compared with about 70% of non-Hispanic White people. Obesity makes it more likely that a person will develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and LDL cholesterol. Talk with your doctor about healthy weight goals and sustainable ways to reach them. These may include things like choosing fish and chicken instead of red meat, having smaller portions of foods like pasta that have lots of carbs, making vegetables a bigger part of meals, choosing water instead of juice and soda, and doing daily exercise like going for walks.
- Diabetes: This major risk factor is something that is preventable and treatable. Be sure to be screened regularly – early diagnosis means preventable complications like amputation and kidney failure can be prevented.
It’s important for everyone to be aware of the signs of heart disease. Ignoring them can lead to serious illness and death.
Common symptoms include:
- Chest pain, tightness, pressure, or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, numbness, weakness, or coldness in the arms or legs
- Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper stomach, or back
Love yourself this Heart Month and take care to lower your chances of developing high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke. Your friends and family will love you for it.
Do you have questions about what you should or shouldn’t be eating for a healthy heart? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and request a call with our Registered Dietitian today!