National Heart Month: Do You Recognize the Early Risk Factors Leading to the #1 Cause of Death in the U.S.?

February is National Heart Month, but don’t be confused by its name– it has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.

Heart Month is the perfect time to promote heart health and learn the facts about the number one killer in the United States: heart disease.

Twenty-five percent of all deaths among men and women are caused by cardiovascular disease. Every 37 seconds, cardiovascular disease claims the life of someone else in the U.S.– that’s more lives than the combination of cancer, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and accidents!

A Delicate Organ

The heart is special. On average, this muscular organ is the size of a fist, weighs about one pound, beats around 115,000 times a day, and pumps more than 2,000 gallons of blood daily. It is responsible for sending blood around your body, providing your body wit the oxygen, nutrients, and hormone cells it needs. It also is key to the removal of metabolic wastes like carbon dioxide and nitrogenous wastes. To say the heart is pretty important would be an understatement.

You Could Be at Risk

Yet, amidst how important the heart is for our bodies to function, so many people abuse it by not properly caring for it. On average, Americans have hearts that are seven years older than what they should be.

Those most at risk for heart disease are people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, those who smoke, those who are obese, who have diabetes, who have limited physical activity, and those who have poor eating habits. This affects more people than you might think: half of all Americans have either high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or smoke.

How to Take Control of Your Heart

Fortunately, cardiovascular disease is preventable (for the most part) when people make healthy choices and manage their health well. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests the following ways to improve your heart health:

Dont Smoke

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

Manage Your Health Conditions

If you have conditions that put you at risk for heart disease (such as the ones mentioned above like high blood pressure and cholesterol), talk with your health care team to help you manage it. You may need to take some medications to assist you.

Eat a Heart-healthy Diet

Eat food low in trans-fat, saturated fat, added sugar, and sodium. Try to fill at least half your plate with vegetables and fruits, and strive to eat food low in sodium. Replace salt with spices and other seasonings and opt for reduced sodium products at the grocery store.

Be More Physically Active

Unfortunately, about 40% of Americans don’t get enough physical activity that meets the CDC’s guidelines. Being physically inactive at the lowest level puts you at higher heart risk than smoking. You should aim to get moving for at least 150 minutes per week, which can also be broken up into 10, 20, or 30 minute blocks.

Sitting for extended periods of time is also an independent risk factor for heart disease. Even if you exercise regularly, it’s still wise to decrease your sitting time throughout the day.

Laugh More

While it may sound silly (go ahead and laugh), laughter is actually really good for your heart. It reduces stress and gives a boost to your immune system. Happy people have a lower risk for developing heart disease. One study conducted in 2010 found that happiest people were 22% less likely to develop heart disease over the 10 years of follow-up than people in the ‘negative-positive’ emotion scale.



Older individuals are at an even greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, the majority of deaths from heart disease occurs with people who are over the age of 65. Know the facts and help lower your risk by following the tips above. If you want to get control of your heart health, contact us at Aegis Hospice and Home Care today.  

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