When we think of February, we think of the month for lovers and all things heart-related. February also reminds us to take care of our heart. It is American Heart Month. The annual celebration began in 1963 to encourage Americans to join the battle against heart disease. President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed February American Heart Month, declaring that “over one-half of the 10 million Americans afflicted by the cardiovascular diseases are stricken during their most productive years, thereby causing a staggering physical and economic loss to the nation.”
Heart disease doesn’t happen just to older adults. It is happening to younger adults more and more often. This is partly because the conditions that lead to heart disease are happening at younger ages. Heart Month is the perfect time to learn about your risk for heart disease and the steps you need to take to help your heart.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conditions and behaviors that affect your risk for heart disease include:
• High blood pressure: Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the most significant risks for heart disease and other harmful conditions, such as stroke.
• High blood cholesterol: Having diabetes and obesity, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to harmful cholesterol levels.
• Smoking: More than 37 million U.S. adults are smokers, and thousands of young people start smoking each day. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease.
• Obesity: Carrying extra weight puts stress on the heart. More than one in three Americans — and nearly one in six children ages 2 to 19 — have obesity.
• Diabetes: Nearly one in 10 people in the United States have diabetes. Diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood. This can damage blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscle.
• Physical inactivity: Staying physically active helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Only one in five adults meets the physical activity guidelines of getting 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity.
• Unhealthy eating patterns: Most Americans, including children, overeat sodium (salt), which increases blood pressure. Replacing foods high in sodium with fresh fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure. But only one in 10 adults get enough fruits and vegetables each day. A diet high in trans-fat, saturated fat and added sugar increases the risk factor for heart disease.
Steps and how Healthy Kingsport can help
Remember, Healthy Kingsport’s goal is to provide citizens with education in the health industry. We have many tools in place to help our citizens “love their whole heart.”
Live Sugarfree — This program is taking on the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes by encouraging people to drink water or other healthier beverages instead of those that contain sugar. By pledging to live Sugarfree, this will decrease the chances of having high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity and diabetes.
Tobacco cessation — Tobacco cessation is the process of discontinuing tobacco smoking or vaping. Taking the pledge to give up the habit will decrease the chance of using tobacco, which damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease.
Physical Wellness (Walker Tracker) — This can be any physical activity such as swimming, hiking, biking and even gardening! This will decrease the chance of all seven conditions and behaviors that affect the risk of heart disease.
Healthy Kingsport is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a community that actively embraces healthy living by promoting wellness, enhancing infrastructure, and influencing policy. Healthy Kingsport’s mission is to create a sustainable community culture of healthy living. The organization’s vision is a community where healthy living is the norm.
For more information about Healthy Kingsport and Living Heart Healthy, visit these websites:
Aiesha Banks is the executive director of Healthy Kingsport She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.