Our heart is the major organ that keeps our bodies going.  February is American Heart Month, the time of year that several organizations, such as the American Heart Association want to impress upon us the importance of taking care of our hearts.

Did you know that heart disease is preventable and controllable?  It seems that we wait until something happens, such as a scare with heart problems before we do anything about it.  Barring predisposed heart disease, most of us are born with healthy hearts.  Exercise and proper diet are very important things to keep our entire body healthy, beginning in childhood. 

Each year, around 715,000 Americans have a heart attack.  About 600,000 people die from heart disease in our country every year, averaging one out of every four deaths.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that it is not too late to start your journey to better heart health by taking one step at a time.  Here are their recommendations:

  • Don’t become overwhelmed, or go it alone.  Get your friends and family involved and you will all be healthier for it.
  • Take one day at a time; if you fail to follow heart healthy rules today, start over tomorrow.
  • Reward yourself.  Do fun things, such as taking a walk with a friend, rather than sit on the couch eating snacks. 
  • Eat a healthy diet.  Choose fruits and yogurt rather than candy and ice cream.
  • Watch your weight. 
  • Monitor your blood pressure.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don’t overdo alcoholic beverages.
  • Keep a check on your cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • If you are diabetic, monitor your sugar levels faithfully.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions and take your medicine as directed.

Here are the warning signs for heart attack from the American Heart Association:

  • Chest discomfort.  This usually last more than a few minutes, and may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body.  Some persons who have had heart attacks reported symptoms in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.  This could happen in addition to or without chest discomfort.
  • Breaking out in a sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.

The American Heart Association also shares warning signs for stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or coordination.
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

If you or someone you know has any of these signs (either heart attack or stroke), call 9-1-1!  Check the time so you will tell the EMS team what time the symptoms first appeared.  If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.  In the event of symptoms of heart attack, call EMS or have someone drive you to the nearest hospital immediately.  Do not drive yourself, unless there’s no other option.

The best Valentine you can give your family is to take care of your heart every day.  My husband had a quadruple heart bypass seven years ago, which was a very scarey event for him and our family.  Thankfully, he takes better care of himself and exercises regularly. 

Last, but not least, remember this Friday, February 7th is National Wear Red Day to remind everyone to love their hearts!

Sources: CDC, American Heart Association