February: Improve Your Heart Health!
Symptoms of a heart attack
While some heart attacks are sudden and intense, most start slowly and gradually. It’s important to get help if you think you are experiencing a heart attack, even if you’re not sure. Here are some common symptoms:
- Chest discomfort. This is the most common symptom in men and women. The discomfort or pain is often felt in the center of the chest and can last a few minutes. Sometimes the pain goes away and comes back.
- Upper body pain. Feeling pain in the shoulders, neck, jaw, or arms, for example.
- Shortness of breath. This can happen with or without chest discomfort.
- Feeling weak, light-headed, dizzy, or faint.
List adapted from the CDC
February is American Heart Month. How’s your heart? Cardiovascular disease takes too many lives in the United States — one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke. USFHP wants you to know that there’s a lot you can do to improve heart health and prevent heart disease. Many of the steps you can take to lessen your chances of heart disease are simple, enjoyable, and will improve the quality of your life on a day-to-day basis. Are you interested in knowing more? Keep reading…
What is heart disease?
The term “heart disease” broadly describes a range of diseases that all affect the heart. You may also hear heart disease referred to as “cardiovascular disease.” Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), the most common heart disease in the US, can lead to a heart attack. The great news is that you can reduce your chances of getting CAD by making lifestyle changes and, in some cases, with the help of medication.
Top strategies to prevent heart disease:
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco — quit if you do. As if you needed another reason not to smoke! Smoking and using tobacco products are one of the more significant factors for developing heart disease. The chemicals in tobacco have all sorts of negative impacts on your heart, blood vessels, and arteries. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for quit smoking resources.
- Get regular exercise. You don’t need a gym to get enough exercise for heart-strengthening benefits. The CDC recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking) every week. That’s a mere 21 minutes of brisk walking per day, something that can be done on your lunch break, during the week or on the weekends with your family or friends. For more tips on fitting in fitness, head on over to the Mayo Clinic website.
- Choose a (heart) healthy diet. Focus on including lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high fiber. Limiting salt, fat, and cholesterol are also very important. Consider speaking with a Registered Dietician if you’re not sure how to make it work.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Doing so will decrease your chances of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes — all conditions that increase your chances for heart disease.
- Limit alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure (not to mention, damage your liver). Visit Alcohol and Public Health for more information about low-risk drinking.
- Get recommended health screenings. Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly. Consider being tested for diabetes. Your primary care provider (PCP) can help you decide which tests you need and how often, depending on your age and other individual risk factors.
List adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack (see the box above). The quicker someone who is having a heart attack receives care, the better chances she or he has of surviving. The signs of a heart attack vary from person to person — some experience severe symptoms while others experience very mild symptoms. Do not delay if you suspect you or someone you know is having a heart attack. Call 911 immediately.
US Family Health Plan encourages members speak to their PCP about recommended health screenings as well as ways to prevent heart disease.
My Life Check ™ from the American Heart Association
More People Walk to Better Health
Information from the CDC
Information from Mayo Clinic