February is designated as Healthy Hearts Month and focuses on what individuals can do to keep their heart healthy and lessen their risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
"Heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer in Michigan," said Kelly Rumpf, Health Educator for the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department.
"In fact, CVD has been the number one cause of death nationally every year since 1900, except in 1918 - the year of the devastating flu epidemic."
About 600,000 Americans die from heart disease each year - that's 1 in every 4 deaths, or 25 percent.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, Rumpf said.
In the U.S., someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds. Nationally, cardiovascular disease costs an estimated $503 billion annually. In Michigan, 4 out of every 10 deaths are due to cardiovascular disease.
"Your actions today can help prevent, delay, or minimize the effects of heart disease," Rumpf said in a statement. "The key strategy is controlling your risk factors."
Here are steps people can take to lower their risk for heart disease and heart attack:
- Prevent and control high blood cholesterol: High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. Preventing and treating high blood cholesterol includes eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, keeping a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise. All adults should have their cholesterol levels checked once every five years. If yours is high, your doctor may prescribe medicines to help lower it.
- Prevent and control high blood pressure: Healthy lifestyle behaviors such as regular physical activity, a healthy diet, not smoking, and a healthy weight will help you maintain normal blood pressure levels. In addition, all adults should have their blood pressure checked on a regular basis. Blood pressure is easily checked. If your blood pressure is high, you can work with your doctor to treat it and bring it down to the normal range. A high blood pressure can usually be controlled with lifestyle changes and with medicines when needed.
- Prevent and control diabetes: People with diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease. People with heart disease can take steps to reduce their risk for diabetes in the first place, through weight loss and regular physical activity.
- No tobacco: Smoking increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Never smoking is one of the best things a person can do to lower their risk. Quitting smoking will also help lower a person's risk of heart disease. A person's risk of heart attack decreases soon after quitting.
- Moderate alcohol use: Excessive alcohol use increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. People who drink alcohol should do so only in moderation and always responsibly.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Healthy weight status in adults is usually assessed by using weight and height to compute a number called the "body mass index" (BMI). BMI usually indicates the amount of body fat. An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. Overweight is a BMI between 25 and 29.9. Normal weight is a BMI of 18 to 24.9. Proper diet and regular physical activity can help to maintain a healthy weight. To compute your BMI, visit www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/adult_BMI/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.htm.
- Regular physical activity: Adults should engage in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
- Diet and nutrition: Along with healthy weight and regular physical activity, an overall healthy diet can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and prevent obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. This includes eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lowering or cutting out added salt or sodium, and eating less saturated fat and cholesterol to lower these risks.
Companies interested in administering a heart health screening for their employees, may call Rumpf for more information.