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American Heart Month

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Bobbie Byrd

From store displays to greeting cards, this time of year is flooded with an abundance of heart imagery and romance, as if to remind us to show appreciation to the special people in our life. However, February is also the perfect time to focus on our health by learning more about how our hearts play an essential role in keeping us going every day. In fact, during American Heart Month, providers, patients, families as well as any advocates for cardiovascular health, all join forces to bring attention to the importance of understanding risk factors and proactively preventing heart disease.

Cardiovascular Health Facts

As the leading cause of death in the United States, heart disease is the causative factor in about one in four deaths each year. While coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most prevalent type of heart disease and can lead directly to a heart attack, there are three major risk factors to consider when identifying symptoms of arrhythmia or heart failure. 

High Blood Pressure

Otherwise known as hypertension, when and if your blood pressure becomes too high, you are at a greater risk for heart disease or stroke. As your heart pumps blood, pressure is exerted against the artery walls, but with hypertension, your heart has to pump harder to circulate blood, which can lead to complications with the brain and kidneys.

  • Over a billion people across the globe have hypertension
  • 46% of adults with hypertension are unaware that they have the condition
  • One in four men and one in five women experience high blood pressure
  • Hypertension is a major cause of premature death worldwide

Treating high blood pressure with medication and lifestyle changes can help mitigate the risk of developing a more serious heart condition. Blood pressure readings play a big part in proactively monitoring hypertension diagnoses and are expressed as two numbers:

  • The systolic, or first number, measures the pressure in the artery when the heart muscle beats or contracts. 
  • The diastolic, or second number, measures the pressure exerted on the artery wall when the heart is at rest between beats.  

High Blood Cholesterol

Did you know about 38% of adult Americans have above-normal cholesterol levels? Unfortunately, high cholesterol is a common cause of heart attacks and can be labeled as a “silent killer” in most cases. How does this happen? When cholesterol is high, fatty buildups occur inside blood vessels and impede the flow of blood. If these deposits break, they can move to the heart and easily cause a heart attack.

Smoking

Smoking causes harm to nearly every organ in the body and can raise triglycerides, lower good cholesterol, increase plaque and cause thickening or narrowing of the blood vessels. With all of these consequential effects in mind, it’s also important to remember that breathing second-hand smoke can still cause damage as well as contribute to coronary heart disease, which prematurely kills 34,000 Americans (on average) each year. Learn more about the health challenges that come from smoking and start tackling them today!

What Is Cardiac Rehabilitation?

While almost 800,000 Americans suffer a heart attack every year, cardiac rehabilitation is a supervised program for someone recovering from a heart attack, heart failure or other heart problem that required past medical intervention or surgery. 

A cardiac rehab program usually includes:

  • Supervised physical activity and/or individualized aerobic therapy routines
  • Patient education that includes healthy living habits such as: nutrition, exercise and prescribed medications 
  • Counseling to explore methods of relieving stress and improving mental health

Benefits Of Cardiac Rehabilitation

Patients can gain both short and long-term benefits from a cardiac rehabilitation program, including:

  • Improved strength in your heart and body after a heart attack
  • Relief from symptoms of heart problems such as chest pain
  • Healthier habits like exercising, eating healthy and quitting smoking
  • Techniques to reduce stress and improve breathing patterns
  • Elevation in moods post-heart attack and reductions of depressive symptoms
  • Increased energy and strength for daily activities 
  • More effective prescription medication management
  • Preventative education to protect against future illnesses and/or death from heart disease

Cardiovascular Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)

Technological advancements like remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices are also helping in the fight against heart disease and have been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure as well as cause effective behavioral intervention. By employing devices that may be implantable, such as pacemakers, defibrillators, glucometers and biosensors, patients with cardiovascular health issues are able to leverage greater accessibility to virtual care. Additionally, RPM may include more common measurement devices, such as blood pressure cuffs and pulse oximeters. Click here to read more about RPM and how it works specifically in pulmonology

It's important to know facts about cardiovascular conditions and to be aware of how today’s healthcare technology can consistently help us keep our hearts healthy. Other than sharing on social media with #HeartMonth or supporting non-profit organizations, here are a couple resources you can explore to promote awareness.


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