As today’s leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States as well as worldwide, heart disease is a condition that affects a huge number of people all over the globe. With the increase of sedentary lifestyles and less healthy food sources, the potential for illness or even death from heart problems may be increasing.
American Heart Month was established to draw attention to the need that each individual and community has to keep their hearts happy, healthy and beating well all throughout their lives!
History of American Heart Month
American Heart Month got its start more than fifty years ago when US President Lyndon B. Johnson made an official proclamation about the event in 1964. The request was brought about through a recommendation by the United States Congress in a joint resolution urging more American citizens to pay attention to their cardiovascular health. The idea behind the month was to focus on the heart and bring forward heart disease as an issue that can be complicated but is also rather preventable.
Heart disease is a term that is used by medical professionals to describe a number of different conditions that are all related to problems with heart health. Some specifics within this larger spectrum may include coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, irregular heartbeats, blood vessel disease and more.
While some forms of heart disease may include congenital heart defects that a person is born with, most often heart disease is acquired throughout the years and can normally be prevented through various healthy lifestyle choices.
American Heart Month is here to raise awareness about this most common health problem as well as to educate folks on what they can do to keep their hearts in top-top shape!
How to Observe American Heart Month
American Heart Month offers a wide array of opportunities to observe this event during at least 28 (or sometimes 29!) days in the month of February. Check out some of these ideas for getting involved and participating in American Heart Month:
Get a Heart Health Checkup
An important factor in living a long and healthy life is getting regular checkups with a doctor, as well as checking blood pressure and cholesterol levels that can be early indicators of heart disease. Many doctors recommend adults over the age of twenty begin getting regular screenings to make sure they maintain their heart health levels all throughout their lives.
Some community health organizations, as well as large corporations with many employees, will offer free heart health screenings in honor of American Heart Month. This is a great time to take advantage of such an opportunity to get a check up as well as lifestyle recommendations from medical professionals.
Consider Data About Heart Health
Whether as an individual, a concerned family member, or a community leader, in observance of American Heart Month it might be helpful to learn a bit more about the data and statistics surrounding cardiovascular disease, and perhaps to also share them. A bit of online research can provide quite a bit of information, but here are some important facts to get started with:
In the United States, one person has a heart attack about every 40 seconds.
Statistically, Black Americans have the highest risk of death from heart disease, with more than 22% of deaths occurring from cardiovascular problems.
Each year, the number of people dying from heart disease in the United States is over 690,000, which is about one in every five deaths, and it remains the number one cause of death.
An estimated 17.9 million people worldwide died of cardiovascular disease in 2019 and, of these, at least 85% were due to stroke or heart attack.
Host an American Heart Month Event
Community leaders, local government officials, health professionals and others might be interested in hosting an event that will help to raise awareness in observance of American Heart Month. This could be something simple like a work event that provides a healthy lunch along with some literature on keeping a healthy heart. Or it could be a community event organized at the local library or a school, complete with seminars or lectures by experts who provide more education on the subject.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a toolkit for those who are holding events during the month of February, providing resources to help everyone in the community focus on their cardiovascular health.
Learn Symptoms of Heart Disease
One good way to show support for American Heart Month might be to get educated about warning signs and symptoms that could be indicators of heart disease. Some of the most obvious warning signs for heart issues are fairly well known, such as pain, pressure or tightness in the chest, or chest discomfort (called angina). But it’s also important to consider some of these other warning signs that could indicate problems:
Shortness of breath, including coughing or wheezing
Pain in a variety of places such as the jaw, neck, throat, back, or upper belly
Swelling in the feet, ankles or legs
Pain, weakness, numbness or a cold feeling in the extremities (arms and legs)
Help Prevent Heart Disease
Preventing heart disease and heart problems can be a very individual activity, but it can also mean getting involved in community events in celebration of American Heart Month. After all, health can be encouraged as a social endeavor that promotes accountability and resources that can’t necessarily be accessed when a person is on their own!
Along the lines of healthy choices that people can make to work toward the prevention of heart disease, doctors often recommend a change in various lifestyle habits. This may include eating a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish, and less use of sweets or unhealthy fats. In addition, those who are more physically active can help with heart health as well as reducing weight. Reduction of alcohol consumption and quitting smoking are other ways to act preventatively against heart disease.