According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.” though it is largely preventable. Therefore, February of each year has been designated as American Heart Month, bringing awareness and education to the general public regarding this disease!
While we are celebrating survivors, remembering those who have succumbed to this disease, and educating all others about preventative measures, let us focus on how we can each do our part in preventing heart disease and promoting general heart care at its earliest stages.
First, let’s break down what American Heart Month is and how we all can prevent heart disease at any age for ourselves!
The Origins of American Heart Month
The first American Heart Month was designated under President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 in order to shed light on the nation’s #1 killer: heart disease!
In his own words, President Johnston urged the nation 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.”
Around the same time, the very first Attorney’s General report came out linking smoking with negative health effects, including heart disease.
This was such an important and vital linkage that brought forth drive by politicians and health professionals alike to bring light to the disease, its causes, and its preventative measures as they were discovered in hopes to save as many American lives as possible.
Though the lives lost annually to heart disease have dropped significantly since that time, its importance and relevance are ever-present in today’s day and age, as it “accounts for one of every four deaths in the United States every year…”. American Heart Month strives to promote awareness, advance implementation of medical advancements, and educate the public on how best to alleviate their own risk of heart disease.
How Can I Prevent Heart Disease?
With a focus on heart disease prevention this month, there are several things that we can each do to prevent this terrible disease at any age. These can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Focus on eating healthy
- Choose foods low in unhealthy fats and sodium
- Indulge in fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, and other healthy foods
- Limit red meats when possible
- Dial back your sugar intake
- Exercise regularly
However, there are a few things that you can focus on at each age level that can fast-track your heart health!
How Can I Prevent Heart Disease in my 20’s?
Preventing heart disease in your 20’s may not be on your bucket list just yet, but early intervention and early implementation of healthy habits can make a real difference in your heart health! First, be sure to establish a healthy connection with your heart doctor and visit them regularly for checkups.
Speak to them about your health habits, diet, and lifestyle as well as have your vitals, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other essentials tested as regularly as they advise to catch any potential problems early!
Secondly, you can begin to implement a healthy diet. The younger you are, the easier it will be to stick to a healthy diet in the long term. Lastly, if your teen years got you into a smoking habit, now is a good time to quit and reduce your exposure to the harms of second-hand smoke!
How Can I Prevent Heart Disease in my 30’s?
In your 30’s, you may now have a family of your own and/or an established career/life path. In this stability, use that to your advantage in protecting your heart health.
First, if you do have an extended family of your own, involve them all in a goal of general heart health by cooking healthier foods together, working out together, and/or discussing your family history of heart disease.
Secondly, this time of your life can be quite stressful, and stress is a huge trigger for heart problems. Try limiting and/or controlling your stress/hypertension levels on your own, and if needed, discuss coping strategies with your doctor to do so.
How Can I Prevent Heart Disease in my 40’s?
Your 40’s are a crucial time when it comes to your health. Even if you have never prioritized your heart health before, now is a great time to start!
First, as you enter this stage of life, your metabolism may begin to slow, so you may notice your body hanging onto those few extra pounds. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regiment can really help you lose those extra pounds that can put extra strain on your heart, causing damage that you may not be aware of right away.
Secondly, maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is crucial currently. Regular testing of such and testing for diabetes, especially if it runs in your family, can help prevent higher blood sugar levels from affecting your blood vessels and ultimately, your heart!
How Can I Prevent Heart Disease in my 50’s and Older Ages?
As you hit the milestone age of 50, extra steps may need to be taken as your health is further impacted by the woes of aging.
First, this age may bring some temptation to break from your healthy eating habits, however, it is more important now than ever to eat healthier foods, fruits, and vegetables, and limit your processed foods, sodium, and sugary substances and drinks.
Secondly, following the guidelines of your doctor is key to remain physically and mentally healthy throughout this stage of life. Be sure to follow any and all treatment plans put forth by your physicians. Lastly, familiarize yourself with the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke, as these can hit unknowingly at any time!
Read Also: Signs of an Unhealthy Heart
Read Also: Tips to Getting and Staying Heart Healthy
If you think something feels wrong or “off,” contact your doctor immediately. And of course, if you are having any symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, go to the nearest emergency room!
This month is an important time to focus on your own education and the education of others on the importance of heart health! While celebrating Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month, take a few extra steps to check-in with yourself on your own heart health and share the good news that most of the causes of heart disease are preventable!