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March 05th, 2021

heart month artworkELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

Cardiovascular health is important for everyone, with cardiovascular diseases claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined.

February is American Heart Month and a good time to show how cardiovascular disease can often be prevented by making healthy choices and properly managing their existing health conditions.

“This year, the federally designated event is even more important due to the impact of the coronavirus on the public's heart health, including potential harmful effects on the heart and vascular system, according to recent research,” information from heart.org noted. “Also, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have delayed or avoided going to hospitals for heart attacks and strokes – netting poorer outcomes and prompting the AHA to create ‘Don't Die of Doubt,’ a national awareness campaign that reminds people that hospitals are the safest place to go when you have symptoms. And while in lockdown, more people have engaged in unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, such as eating poorly, drinking more alcohol and limiting physical activity, that can contribute to heart disease. Meanwhile, heart disease continues to be the greatest health threat to Americans and is still the leading cause of death worldwide, according to the AHA's Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2021 Update. The update, published in the association's flagship journal Circulation, reports that nearly 18.6 million people across the globe died of cardiovascular disease in 2019, the latest year for which worldwide statistics are calculated. That's a 17.1 percent increase over the past decade. And 523.2 million cases of cardiovascular disease were reported in 2019, a 26.6 percent increase over 2010. In most cases, heart disease is preventable when people adopt a healthy lifestyle, which includes not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol, treating high blood pressure, getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week and getting regular checkups.”

During American Heart Month, the American Heart Association and other organizations reinforce the importance of heart health, the need for more research and efforts to ensure that millions of people live longer and healthier. 

Healthline.com added heart disease does not discriminate and is the leading cause of death for several populations, including white people, Hispanics, and Black people. Almost half of Americans are at risk for heart disease, and the numbers are rising,

“Heart disease encompasses a wide range of cardiovascular problems. Several diseases and conditions fall under the umbrella of heart disease,” healthline.com noted. “Types of heart disease include arrhythmia (a heart rhythm abnormality), atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), cardiomyopathy (which causes the heart’s muscles to harden or grow weak), congenital heart defects (heart defects are heart irregularities that are present at birth), coronary artery disease (which is caused by the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries and sometimes called ischemic heart disease), and heart infections (which may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites). The term cardiovascular disease may be used to refer to heart conditions that specifically affect the blood vessels. Heart disease is a collection of diseases and conditions that cause cardiovascular problems. Each type of heart disease is caused by something entirely unique to that condition – for example, atherosclerosis and CAD result from plaque buildup in the arteries.”

There are also some different tests doctors will perform to properly diagnose heart disease. 

“Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your personal and family medical history,” information from The Mayo Clinic noted. “The tests you'll need to diagnose your heart disease depend on what condition your doctor thinks you might have. Besides blood tests and a chest X-ray, tests to diagnose heart disease can include an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which is a quick and painless test that records the electrical signals in your heart. It can spot abnormal heart rhythms. You may have an ECG while you're at rest or while exercising (stress electrocardiogram). There is also Holter monitoring, which consists of wearing a portable ECG device you wear to continuously record your heart rhythm, usually for 24 to 72 hours. Holter monitoring is used to detect heart rhythm problems that aren't found during a regular ECG exam. An echocardiogram exam uses sound waves to produce detailed images of your heart's structure and also shows how your heart beats and pumps blood. A stress test involves raising your heart rate with exercise or medicine while performing heart tests and imaging to check how your heart responds. With cardiac catheterization, a short tube (sheath) is inserted into a vein or artery in your leg (groin) or arm. A hollow, flexible and longer tube (guide catheter) is then inserted into the sheath and using X-ray images on a monitor as a guide, your doctor carefully threads the catheter through the artery until it reaches your heart. During cardiac catheterization, the pressures in your heart chambers can be measured, and dye can be injected. The dye can be seen on an X-ray, which helps your doctor see the blood flow through your heart, blood vessels and valves to check for problems.”

Depending on those test results, The Mayo Clinic noted, there are some different treatment options. 

“The type of treatment you receive depends on the type of heart disease you have,” The Mayo Clinic noted. “In general, treatment for heart disease usually includes lifestyle changes, which can lower your risk of heart disease by eating a low-fat and low-sodium diet, getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake. If lifestyle changes alone aren't enough, your doctor may prescribe medications to control your heart disease. The type of medication you receive will depend on the type of heart disease. And if medications aren't enough, it's possible your doctor will recommend specific procedures or surgery. The type of procedure or surgery will depend on the type of heart disease and the extent of the damage to your heart.”

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