Over 17.9 million: That’s the estimated number of people around the world who died from heart disease in 2019. Today, 32% of deaths are caused from heart attack or stroke — and in the United States, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, claiming the life of one in every four Americans, or 655,000 people, each year.

World Heart Day

The goal of World Heart Day is to increase advocacy for cardiovascular diseases and to teach people around the world how to control their own heart health. Established by the World Heart Federation, with support from the World Health Organization, the first celebration of this annual awareness event launched on September 24, 2000. Prior to 2011, World Heart Day was on the last Sunday in September each year, but it’s now celebrated annually on September 29.

Healthy Hearts Matter

Unlike many other diseases, cardiovascular disease (heart disease) is often preventable, with behavior playing a huge role in heart health. Risk factors such as an unhealthy diet, tobacco use, physical inactivity and abuse of alcohol or drugs can result in symptoms such as high blood pressure, increased blood glucose, raised blood lipid levels, excessive body weight or even obesity. 

According to the World Heart Federation, they estimate that controlling these behaviors or habits could prevent about 80% of deaths as well as reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke before the age of 70.  Through annual World Heart Day campaigns or local outreach, healthcare providers can encourage individuals, families and communities to engage in activities that promote heart health for everyone. 

How Physical Therapy Can Help Your Heart

Heart disease prevention really isn’t hard, but it does take dedication to make behavioral changes and proactively achieve your wellness goals. To improve heart health, you should seek support from a physical therapist (PT), so that they can work directly with you or collaborate with other healthcare professionals in order to develop an individualized treatment plan.  Some of the ways a physical therapist can help you control existing heart conditions include:

  • Education. Your physical therapist can instruct you to do safe exercises and advise which levels of physical activity are best for you. A PT can also personalize an exercise program that meets your unique needs. 
  • Aerobic Endurance. A home exercise program can help you improve your stamina and tolerance to aerobic exercises such as yoga, biking, swimming or walking. 
  • Muscle Strengthening. You can maintain your muscles through monitored strength training. Your physical therapists can work with you to pinpoint the appropriate amount or intensity of exercise training that’s right for you.
  • Improve Breathing During Activity.  Your PT can guide you in breathing exercises that help increase the strength of your heart and lungs. 

If you aren’t suffering from heart disease, you can take steps to prevent it. Consulting with your physical therapist could lead to a preventative program that is tailored to your needs and based on recommendations by the American Heart Association, which include:

  • Healthy Diet. Choose foods low in sodium, trans fat and saturated fat. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains rich in fiber as well as fish. Go low fat with dairy products and skinless with poultry. 
  • Physical Activity. The average recommendation for physical activity is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. If you prefer more vigorous activity, challenge yourself – try jogging or running for about 75 minutes each week. 
  • Awareness. Learn the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke. However, it is important to note that heart attack symptoms may be different in women.

Getting Involved In World Heart Day

More than 90 countries take part in annual World Heart Day activities. Each year, advocates spread the word about World Heart Day through various channels including in-person events, podcasts, television segments, webinars, social media and so much more.  Some of the activities you can enjoy include:

  • Using the day for a thorough checkup. You may even find that some healthcare services are offered at reduced or no cost as part of local celebrations.
  • Get some exercise. Check out your local gym or explore the possibilities of a fun, new fitness class. 
  • Keep learning. Set up or attend classes and seminars on life-changing topics such as CPR, lowering BMI, adopting a balanced diet or cooking heart-healthy foods.
  • Share your story. Need some help with posters, banners, leaflets and social media posts? The World Heart Federation has resources to download and share. 

You don’t have to wait until September to take care of your heart. Focus on improving your everyday lifestyle and show your heart the love it needs all year round.  Share this post and use #WorldHeartDay!