It's Heart Awareness Month

February is Heart Awareness month, so we’re going to talk about heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in our country. Despite this, it’s one of the most preventable. Some ways to prevent heart disease are to make healthy choices (like exercise and eat healthy foods), knowing family history of the disease, knowing risk factors and having regular checkups with your doctor.

Heart disease includes many different problems, a lot that are related to something called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This build-up narrows the arteries, making blood flow difficult and increasing the chances of blood clots. If a blood clot forms, then a heart attack or stroke can occur.

When the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot, a heart attack occurs. When a blood vessel that feeds the brain gets blocked (usually from a blood clot) an ischemic stroke occurs. This is the most common type of stroke. Brain cells die when the blood supply to a part of the brain is shut off, which can lead to after-stroke affects like having difficulty walking and talking. When a blood vessel within the brain bursts, a hemorrhagic stroke occurs. The most common cause of this type of stroke is uncontrolled blood pressure.

Some other types of heart disease are heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems. Heart failure occurs when the heart is not pumping blood like it is supposed to, which leads to the body receiving inadequate blood and oxygen. Arrhythmia is an abnormal heart beat. This can mean the heart beats too fast, too slow, or just irregularly. A slow heart beat is referred to as Bradycardia and means that a person’s heart rate is less than 60 beats-per-minute. A fast heart beat is referred to as Tachycardia and means a person’s heart rate is more than 100 beats-per-minute. Some heart valve problems are stenosis, regurgitation, and prolapse. Stenosis occurs when heart valves don't open enough to allow the blood to flow through like it is supposed to. Regurgitation occurs when the heart valves don't close properly and allow blood to leak through. Prolapse occurs when the valve leaflets bulge back into the upper chamber of the heart.

Here are some facts about heart disease:

· Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined.

· Coronary heart disease (when plague builds up in the coronary arteries) is the most common type of heart disease, killing nearly 380,000 people annually.

· In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds. Every 60 seconds, someone in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event.

· About 720,000 people in the U.S. suffer heart attacks each year. Of these, 515,000 are a first heart attack and 205,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.

· Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.

· Direct and indirect costs of heart disease total more than $320.1 billion. That includes health expenditures and lost productivity.  

All information from the following sites: