By Coach Stacy Fowler, M.S., C.P.T.
What is the size of a fist, weighs as much as your sneaker, works like a car engine and works day and night, even when you sleep? You’re smart – it’s the heart. But are you heart smart?
While Colorado is tied with Washington, D.C. for having the lowest prevalence of heart disease in the nation, cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in the state. One Coloradan dies every hour due to heart disease, but nationally, the statistics paint a bleaker picture:
- Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S.
- One hundred people die every hour due to heart disease
- $403 billion were spent in 2006 combating the disease; loss of productivity due to heart disease cost the nation $146 billion
- 66% of victims never fully recover
- 90% of middle-aged Americans will develop high blood pressure
- 70% of Americans are not even aware they have heart disease
- Cardiovascular disease kills more women than men each year
The red flags for cardiovascular disease are well known: tobacco use, poor food diet, excessive alcohol intake, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Certain risk factors cannot be controlled:
- Age – the risk of heart disease increases with age
- Gender – women’s risk of heart disease rises sharply after menopause and more women than men suffer strokes
- Heredity – genetic risk can play a role in heart disease
So how do we win the battle against heart disease? Prevention, prevention, prevention! Here are some “heart smart” tips for avoiding the risk of cardiovascular disease:
- Move It! Try to build up to 10,000 steps each day.
- Make healthy food choices. Eat plenty of colors (fruits and vegetables) and limit your intake of saturated fats and salt.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Schedule yearly checkups.
- Keep your cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar levels in check.
- Avoid tobacco in all forms and excessive use of alcohol.
- Take time to recharge yourself and try to keep stress levels in check.
The warning signs of a heart attack vary widely, from sudden and intense to generally not feeling well. Symptoms can include:
- Chest discomfort
- Pain in other areas of the body, such as the back, arms, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat, nausea, and dizziness
Call 911 immediately if you or someone you are with suffers any of these symptoms.
February is American Heart Month. Do your part to become educated in a heart-healthy lifestyle. You never know – the life you save could be your own.