While February is widely associated with Valentine’s Day, for over 50 years it has also been recognized by the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) as American Heart Month.
Many heart-related organizations and institutions hope to raise awareness about heart health throughout the month, sharing information and statistics to help Americans reduce their risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease and help to keep the need for heart transplants more manageable.
Although death rates for cardiovascular disease have decreased by more than 70 percent in the last 50 years, heart disease continues to be the number one cause of death in the U.S. – way higher than any other country. So – what is driving America’s poor heart health report card? And what we can do to help turn this around for better overall heart health outcomes?
What is heart disease and why is it so prevalent?
Heart disease can refer to many different cardiovascular conditions, including coronary artery disease (CAD), which disrupts the flow of blood to the heart and often leads to heart attack or stroke. Medical research points to smoking, obesity, type 2 diabetes, excessive drinking, and high blood pressure as primary contributors to CAD. Stress and mental health issues can also lead to questionable lifestyle choices especially when depression, anxiety or mental illness is left unchecked.
Even before COVID, Americans were heavier and in poorer health than those in Western Europe and other developed countries. In the past two years, COVID and its corresponding isolation and stress have set all of us up for even poorer eating, drinking and exercise habits. New research is still being done, but we do know that waistlines and high blood pressure numbers have dramatically increased as we stayed (inactive) inside our homes.
In addition, those that caught COVID increased the likelihood of damage to their hearts and lungs, which in turn, is likely increasing the future need for healthy heart and lung transplants – especially for those with so-called Long-term COVID.
With all of that going on, there is no better time than the month of February to take your heart health seriously.
Here’s what you can do according to The American Heart Association.
- Set a good example by taking the initiative to care for your heart and encourage others to the same.
- Schedule an annual check-up so you can better prevent heart health issues in your future.
- Get active. Set up a regular exercise regimen, getting your heart rate up for 30 minutes every day.
- Sleep at least 8 hours a day.
- Eat a balanced diet, reducing sugar and salt intake, and adding more fruits and vegetables.
At MediGO, we’re all about helping Americans get—and stay—healthier. We want to keep the need for heart and other vital organ transplants as low as possible.
We can all help improve America’s report card – one heart at a time.