R ed paper hearts, heart-shaped boxes full of chocolate, one whole day dedicated to love – it must be February! But this month isn’t just about valentines and chocolate, it is also about the heart; February is heart disease awareness month.
According to the American Heart Association in 2006, 81 million Americans had some form of cardiovascular disease. About 73 million had high blood pressure, which is a common risk factor for strokes and heart attacks. But high blood pressure isn’t the only risk factor, others to be aware of include:
Ok, so you cannot do anything about those three risk factors, but here are some that you can do something about:
What are the warning signs of a cardiovascular event?
It is important to note that men and women are very different. (You probably didn’t need a doctor to tell you that!) Women typically don’t manifest the same symptoms of a heart attack as men. Indigestion and extreme fatigue are the most common early warning signs of a heart attack in women.
A new study published Tuesday, February 15, 2011, in the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology shows that the heart’s ability to handle premature contractions (known as heart rate turbulence) may be the strongest indicator of a potential heart attack. The study showed that even individuals considered to have a low cardiovascular risk are 8-9 times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease if they have abnormal heart rate turbulence. Heart rate turbulence is a measure of how well someone can handle sudden or extreme stress. At this time, testing heart rate turbulence is not a standard test used to assess cardiovascular risk. However based on this research, it may soon be.
So what can you do to maintain a healthy heart?
Awareness and education is key to understanding how to reduce your risk of heart disease. See your doctor regularly and ask for help in reducing your risk factors. It is the best way to show your love for your family, and yourself, in February.