It’s February and that means it’s American Heart Month! It’s also when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, when we do exactly the opposite of what we should do and surprise our most beloved pooh-bears with fat-saturated chocolates and romantic dinners that probably aren’t salad. The point being that we tend to do what’s not good for our heart health, on the very day that we should be thinking about how we can hang around longer for our loved ones.
Here’s the unromantic truth: heart disease is the #1 killer of both men and women in the United States.1 Most of us know that by now from news stories and a constellation of major and not-nearly-so-major stars that support heart health big-time. I’m not quite sure why we need celebrities to validate taking care of our hearts, but if DJ Earworm says it’s the thing to do, I’m all for it. (Go ahead, I’ll wait while you look him up.)
Another fact from the Centers for Disease Control: chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are major risk factors for heart disease. Obesity/overweight, smoking, and excessive alcohol use are also risk factors. Think you’re not at risk? You can be slim and work out regularly and eat all the right stuff most of the time and yet still need to be vigilant about heart disease due to hereditary factors. Heart disease can sneak up on you without warning; sometimes a heart attack is the first symptom. You think you’re doing fine and then boom! you’re having a heart attack. (By the way, despite what your Facebook friends may be posting, that thing they put in your heart to hold the vessel open is a “stent”, not a “stint”. You want the life-saving one, not the limited-effort one.) Keep in mind too that “heart disease” isn’t just one condition. It includes not just the familiar (and top killer) coronary artery disease but also heart valve problems, arrhythmias, heart muscle disease, and other less well-known but still serious disorders. You can learn more about heart disease at www.heart.org.
One additional risk factor that might surprise you: poverty. Individuals with low incomes and low education levels are much more likely to suffer from hypertension, high cholesterol, heart attack, and stroke.2
Many risk factors for heart disease can be managed with a combination of proper diet, exercise, health education, healthy habits, and medical oversight and intervention when needed. For adults living in poverty and without health insurance, like some 50,000 in Montgomery County, Mercy Health Clinic provides specialized care, medications, health education, and other services at no charge – truly healthcare from the heart.
This Valentine’s Day, do something good for your heart and support the Mercy Health Clinic. To donate or volunteer, go to www.mercyhealthclinic.org.
— Pam Saussy, Board Member
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics.