February is Heart Health Month. Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It’s also an equal opportunity killer which claims approximately 1 million lives annually. Your risk of developing heart disease is determined by several factors including:
Age – Heart disease can occur at any age. However, four out of five people who die from coronary heart disease are aged 65 or older. The risk of stroke doubles with each decade after the age of 55.
Gender – Men and women are equally at risk for heart disease, but women tend to get coronary artery disease, on average, 10 years later than men. Death rates from heart disease and stroke for women are twice as high as those for all forms of cancer.
Family History – The presence of heart disease in a parent or sibling, especially at a young age, increases your risk of developing heart disease.
Smoking – Smokers are twice as likely to suffer heart attacks as non-smokers – and they are more likely to die as a result.
High Blood Pressure – People with high blood pressure have an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, aneurysm and kidney damage. When combined with other risk factors, such as smoking, high cholesterol or diabetes, the risk increases several times.
Obesity – People who are overweight are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, even if they have no other risk factors.
Diabetes – Developing diabetes seriously increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, even if glucose levels are under control. More than 80% of people with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease.
Inactivity – Failure to exercise regularly can contribute to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, as physical activity helps control weight, cholesterol levels and, in some cases, can help lower blood pressure.
The good news? Heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions. February is the perfect month to make sure you have a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a diet low in salt and fat and high in fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
Already have heart disease? The Hearts at Home program at Home Health VNA is specially designed to provide the nursing care, teaching and support you need to manage your symptoms so you can feel better at home.