by Kirk Maltais
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day.
These hard facts, courtesy of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention, make it clear that heart disease is a lethal affliction in our country. Furthermore, in 2010, hospitalizations related to heart disease cost Americans more than $444 billion in expenses and lost productivity.
This month is American Heart Month. In the interest of raising awareness about the various forms of heart disease, the National Center for Disease Control with the Department of Health and Human Services has crafted a national initiative called A Million Hearts.
A Million Hearts is a national push to prevent at least one million heart attacks and strokes by the end of 2016. In order to accomplish such an ambitious goal, the CDC/HHS is campaigning for Americans to choose healthy activities and eat a healthy diet. Particularly, the campaign is pushing for people to stop smoking tobacco, as well as cutting down significantly on the sodium and trans-fat they consume.
Also a key catchphrase the campaign wants you to be familiar with: Know Your ABCS. In this case, What does “ABCS” stand for? “A” means “ask your doctor if you should take an Aspirin every day.” “B” and “C” stand for “find out if you have high Blood pressure or Cholesterol, and if you do, get effective treatment.” As for the “S”, it means “if you Smoke, get help to quit.”
The Million Hearts campaign is not limited to the national level, according to Lindsey Parker, the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Manager with the Virginia Department of Health.
“We really support activities that are done on the local level,” says Parker. According to her, the VDH spends a lot of time promoting heart disease awareness in places like the workplace and schools. The National Wear Red Day, which occurred on February 3, is a perfect example of this.
The VDH is more concerned with increasing awareness of heart disease year-round. According to Parker, heart disease is a problem that affects so many people that it’s necessary to get the message out. “You are at higher risk for heart disease if you’re a woman 55+, man 45+, or family has history of heart disease. These are things we cannot change.”
However, what people can do is learn about how to mitigate their risk factors. Maintaining a low-fat, low sodium, high fiber diet will go a long way towards keeping your heart healthy. Drinking in moderation and quitting smoking are also advised.
KNOW YOUR ABCS
Also, Parker advises people to look at food labels, and keep your weight healthy. According to her, losing a few pounds can go a long way in preserving your heart. If you have high blood pressure, be vigilant in taking your medication. Most of all, if you have any risk factors, talk with your doctor.
As for the Million Hearts campaign, Parker notes that it is a five-year campaign that the CDC/HHS just rolled out. “The Million Hearts campaign is really just getting started,” says Parker. According to her, “there’s a lot more to come.” Mainly, there are a lot of things the VDH is planning to do with the community to raise the awareness of heart disease and its risk factors.
Other tips from the Million Hearts campaign include:
-Get up and get active by being physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
-Make your calories count by eating a heart-healthy diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in sodium and trans fat.
Want to join the cause? Visit http://millionhearts.hhs.gov for more information!