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February - American Heart Month

February - American Heart Month

 

            Traditionally the month for lovers and all things heart related, February also reminds us to take care of our heart as it is American Heart Month. The first American Heart Month, which took place in February 1964, was proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.   At that time, more than half the deaths in the U.S. were caused by cardiovascular disease.

            The American Heart Association wants to help everyone live longer, healthier lives so they can enjoy all of life’s precious moments. And we know that starts with taking care of your health. American Heart Month, a federally designated event, is a great way to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends and communities involved.

            Despite the work of the American Heart Association, myths about heart disease abound.  Let’s compare some common myths to the facts about heart disease.

 

            Myth: Heart disease is for men, and cancer is the real threat for women

            Fact: Heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease is the cause of one out of every three deaths. That’s roughly one death each minute.

 

            Myth: Heart disease is for old people

            Fact: Heart disease affects people of all ages.  For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent. And while the risks do increase with age, things like overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries later in life. But even if you lead a completely healthy lifestyle, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.

 

            Myth: Heart disease doesn’t affect women who are fit

            Fact: Even if you’re a yoga-loving, marathon-running workout fiend, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated. Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counterbalance your other healthy habits. You can be thin and have high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. And while you’re at it, be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure at your next check-up.

 

            Myth: I don’t have any symptoms

            Fact: Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Because these symptoms vary greatly between men and women, they’re often misunderstood. Media has conditioned us to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. But in reality, women are somewhat more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms women should look out for are dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.

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