Here’s to Your Heart Health
Thanks to Lyndon Johnson, our nation’s 36th president, February is American Heart Month in the United States. In his remarks establishing February 1964 as the first one, Johnson urged 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 solutions.”
As important as that message was back then, it’s even more important today – cardiovascular disease accounts for one in four deaths in the United States every year, and most of those deaths are preventable.
Those deaths happen to people of all ages, too – heart disease is not just something that happens among older adults. In fact, it’s happening more and more often to younger and younger people, as our eating habits become less healthy and rates of obesity and elevated blood pressure are accelerating among those under 60.
In spite of decades of cautions, half of all Americans still have a least one of the top 3 risk factors for heart disease:
- Smoking: Even though the percentage who smoke has dropped from over 40% in 1964 to under 20% in 2018 (the latest year for which figures are available), more than 37 million American adults are still smokers. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease.
- High cholesterol: Many studies have shown that high cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease. Diabetes, obesity, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to high cholesterol, and to…
- High blood pressure. Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease, and Americans of all ages have high blood pressure, including millions of people in their 40’s and 50’s, about half of whom don’t have it under control.
Perhaps the easiest things most Americans could do to avoid high cholesterol and blood pressure would be to exercise more and eat a healthier diet.
It seems the thing that is suffering the most due to the stresses and time drains of our daily digital lives is our diets, which are often filled with convenience food. Fast is not always good – do yourself and your heart a favor and take just a little extra time each evening to make sure you have some healthy options available for lunch and snacks the next day – fruit, nuts, maybe celery or carrot sticks. And cut back on salt, sodas and sports drinks – water is always the best option.
If you eat a little better, exercise a little more, don’t smoke, and manage the daily stresses of life with a smile, your heart should be happy for a long time to come.