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American Heart Month – The Importance of Heart Health

Feb 14, 2022

Every year, leading up to Valentine’s Day, the commercial marketplace brims with clothing, cards and candies, all emblazoned with the universal emblem of love: the heart. The heart has long been recognized as a symbol of romantic affection, but biologically, it is a powerful organ that is responsible for proper functioning of the human body and its health is essential to life.

Each year, heart disease is attributed to one in four deaths–killing more than 600,000 Americans. Heart disease isn’t necessarily a specific condition, rather, it’s a group of cardiac disorders that can lead to negative health effects, and, in severe cases, death.

Cardiac issues that fall under the umbrella of heart disease include:

  • Coronary artery disease (also known as blood vessel disease)
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Diseases of the heart muscle
  • Heart infection
  • Heart valve disease

While heart disease is a very real concern, many cases are preventable. Organizations like the American Heart Association work to help Americans develop lifestyles that support heart health, while American Heart Month promotes awareness of heart disease and heart-healthy behaviors.

How American Heart Month Got Its Start

Established by President Lyndon B. Johnson under a presidential proclamation in December 1963, American Heart Month was originally created as a one time initiative to educate the Nation about the importance of heart health. Ten days later, Congress requested that the President issue an annual proclamation to educate Americans about cardiovascular disease.

In his remarks announcing the annualization of American Heart Month, in February 1964, President Johnson stated that he wanted, “the people of the United States to give heed to the nationwide problem of the heart and blood-vessel diseases, and to support the programs required to bring about its solution.”

Shortly after President Johnson’s announcement of the first American Heart Month, Surgeon General, Dr. Luther Terry, released the first government-backed report linking smoking to negative health effects.

Thankfully, deaths in America due to cardiac issues have declined since the first American Heart Month, but much work still needs to be done to help Americans live heart-healthy lives.

Risk Factors For Heart Disease

There are many risk factors that can increase the likelihood of heart disease. Fortunately, heart health can be positively impacted by lifestyle changes.

Risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • An unhealthy diet
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking

People who are concerned about developing heart disease should consult with their healthcare provider to create a plan to help lower their risk and to improve their heart health. Those with serious risk factors for heart disease may need to take a stress test before beginning an exercise program. Administered by a physician, a stress test provides information on how the heart responds to physical activity. A physician can use this information to advise the patient on the best way to engage in physical exercise to benefit their heart health.

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Heart Health

Your body is an amazing machine, and your heart its generator. Your heart works day and night to ensure that your blood is distributing the necessary oxygen and nutrients to all the body’s cells. Without proper functioning of the heart, your organs may be damaged or cease to function.

Check out these interesting facts about cardiac health:

  • Your body contains 60,000 miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries—enough to circle the globe—twice.
  • On average, women have faster heartbeats than men.
  • Heart attacks are more common on Monday than on other days of the week.
  • More people have heart attacks on Christmas Day than any other day of the year.
  • Every minute, your heart pumps 1.5 gallons of blood.

Taking Care Of Your Ticker: Four Lifestyle Changes To Make Today

Good news: there are immediate steps you can take to start improving your heart health, today*. Here, we’ll take a look at four changes you can make to your daily routine to boost your cardiac health.

Breathe In, Breathe Out

We know—de-stressing is easier said than done. But, making an effort to help lower your stress levels can go a long way in improving cardiac health. Taking a few minutes to meditate at the start or end of each day, enjoying a catch-up phone call with a good friend, participating in a yoga class, or sweating it out at the gym can all help you to manage stress in a healthy way.

Start An Exercise Program

Speaking of exercise —working out is vital to your heart health. Your heart is a muscle, and just like other muscles in the body, it gets stronger through hard work. Strength and cardio training both play an important role in the health of your heart. Working with a certified personal trainer can help you design and stick to a cardio-centric exercise program with the goal of improving your heart health.

If You Smoke, Stop.

Quitting smoking is challenging, but can work wonders for your heart. If you’re a smoker, talk with your doctor about steps you can take to cut down, and eventually, quit smoking. Your doctor may also recommend working with a therapist to help you develop stress management strategies to stay strong when cravings hit.

Use Healthy Food To Support Your Heart

Your diet plays a critical role in keeping your ticker ticking. Including heart-healthy foods in your diet—such as guacamole and salmon—can provide your heart with the healthy fats it needs to run smoothly. Try your best to eat processed foods sparingly (especially processed meat), and limit your salt and sugar intake to help keep your heart pumping strong.

Slim Down

If you’re overweight, losing weight can improve your heart health. There’s no need to go on a crash diet or cut out entire food groups. Instead, create a manageable plan through collaboration with professionals—like your doctor, a dietitian, or a personal trainer—to develop a health and wellness plan that will help you to reach and stay at a weight that’s appropriate for your body.

Ready To Improve Your Heart Health? We’re Here To Help!

So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, consider showing your heart some love by improving your diet, getting active and standing strong in the war against cardiovascular disease. The teams at Fitness Together® studios can assist you in becoming your healthiest, happiest self by designing a custom wellness program to help you reach your goals. Contact us today to learn more. Your heart will thank you for it!

*Before beginning an exercise program, it’s always important to consult with your doctor. This is especially vital if you’ve experienced cardiac issues in the past, if you’re starting to exercise for the first time in a while, or if you have certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

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