February is Heart Month –– Make Cardiovascular Health A Lifelong New Year Resolution   

According to the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis –– Missouri has the nation’s 10th highest death rate due to heart disease.

As calendars turn to a new month, February is an appropriate time to revisit New Year resolutions –– to reexamine goals set at the onset of the new year. Most generally, our new year resolutions focus on ways to attain and achieve a healthier lifestyle and goals may include a new exercise regimen, a new diet format with less sugar and salt, or relieving stress through meditation or perhaps, to quit smoking. All worthwhile endeavors. 

While acknowledging February as Heart month, February seems the perfect time to implement goals for heart health as well and lend support to the cardiovascular system. 

Health issues impact us all, and most of us know someone with a heart problem or cardiovascular issues –– a disease that knows no boundaries, for age is not a factor.  

Most local folks will remember Douglas County’s Rocky Valentine and the overwhelming challenges he and his family faced when heart complications were discovered not long after Rocky celebrated his 13th birthday. But the story did not stop with Rocky, it also culminated into two hometown success stories.  

Rocky was the recipient of a successful heart transplant in March 2000.  And approximately 12 years later, Rocky’s daughter Lyla, six months old at the time, embarked on the same medical journey as Dad. 

Lyla is also a heart transplant recipient.  

In January, the American Heart Association published the Heart & Stroke Statistics for 2020, and the update shows heart disease and stroke deaths continue to decline which is good news. However, there has been a significant slow down over the past few years –– people are living longer, but statistics are showing quality of life is lacking and flawed.  

The study shows health issues are appearing at much younger ages.  

The Heart & Stroke Statistics – 2020 Update state the following statistics:

  • Obesity rates are on the rise in children and adults. Nearly 40% of U.S. adults and 18.5% of youths are obese.
  • Physical activity rates for youths are appallingly low. The study reports less than a third of U.S. students take part in a daily physical education class, and only 26 percent meet national recommendations, which promote one hour daily of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
  • The number of people with uncontrolled high blood sugar is increasing, as more people are moving into diabetic or pre-diabetic conditions.  
  • In the U.S., from 1990 to 2017, diabetes increased 129.7% for males and 120.9% for females.

The number of cigarette smokers in the U.S. is down among adults and at all-time lows for teens; but the growing youth vaping epidemic continues. Global tobacco use continues to climb as well. 

According to a recent Harris Poll, 93 percent of those surveyed embrace the idea that living a long, healthy life is important not only for themselves, but for others, too.  

However, less than half of the respondents recognize the correlation between behavior choices and how day-to-day decisions influence health and well-being. Only 34 percent of those surveyed acknowledged and recognized that lifestyle choices influence long term health. The poll shows a strong disconnect between the desire for a long healthy life, and the ability to make a commitment to achieve it.   

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires discipline to choose wisely and a willingness to commit to a healthy lifestyle. Heart health is no different, it is a personal choice. 

For those striving to attain health related goals this new year, here are four important heart health recommended by the American Heart Association: 

Quit smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, quit.

Be cognizant of health issues. Discuss medical issues with your doctor and keep abreast of conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Ask questions and make an effort to learn more about preventing and managing health problems.

Eat healthy.  Eat foods low in trans-fat, saturated fat, added sugar and sodium. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits, and choose low sodium options.  

Exercise. Physically move for at least 150 minutes per week. Exercise sessions can be 30 minutes long or multiple segments of 10-minute blocks.  The focus is to stay physically active each day. 

In addition, it is important to know the signs of a heart attack and a stroke. 

Heart Attack Symptoms include: 

  • Chest discomfort in the center of the chest.  The symptom can be an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing sensation, fullness or pain; 
  • Upper body discomfort, which may mean pain in one arm or both arms, in the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. 
  • Shortness of breath, which may occur alone or with chest discomfort. 
  • Nausea, light-headedness or a cold sweat. 

For a stroke, symptoms to watch for are best remembered by the acronym F.A.S.T.: 

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty 
  • Time to call 9-1-1 and rush to the hospital immediately. 

This year, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 is designated National Wear Red Day.  

On the first Friday of every February, the nation is asked to come together and wear red as a way to bring awareness to the importance of heart health. The Go Red for Women® campaign is the American Heart Association’s global initiative to end heart disease and stroke in women

For more information about heart health visit any of the following websites: healthfinder.gov  or heart.org or cdc.gov or goredforwomen.org