Guest Blog: The American Heart Association Gives Tips to Prevent America’s No. 1 Killer

Photo from Amy Hobley, Go Red For Women Corporate Events Director
Photo from Amy Hobley, Go Red For Women Corporate Events Director

American Heart Month serves as a platform for raising awareness of America’s number one killer — heart disease. Beginning on the 10th anniversary of National Wear Red Day (Feb. 1) the American Heart Association is celebrating 12 years of wearing red to fight heart disease.

Proclaimed since 1963, February is commemorated as American Heart Month in order to urge Americans to join the battle against heart disease. The observation also recognizes the critical importance of developing tools that will increase survival rates from heart attacks and cardiac arrest.

The American Heart Association launched its Go Red For Women movement in February 2003 to raise awareness that heart disease is the number one killer of women. The grassroots campaign has since grown into a vibrant national movement as more women, men, celebrities, healthcare providers and politicians embrace and elevate the cause of women and heart disease.

The campaign provides women with tips and information on healthy eating, exercise, and risk factor reduction such as smoking cessation, weight maintenance, blood pressure control and blood cholesterol management.

What it means to Go Red:

  • Get Your Numbers: Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Own Your Lifestyle: Stop smoking, lose weight, exercise and eat healthy.
  • Realize Your Risk: We think it won’t happen to us, but heart disease kills one in three women.
  • Educate Your Family: Make healthy food choices for you and your family. Teach your kids the importance of staying active.
  • Don’t be silent: Tell every woman you know that heart disease is our number one killer. Raise your voice at GoRedForWomen.org.

Powered by the American Heart Association, GoRedForWomen.org and GoRedCorazon.org are the top online destinations where millions of women can learn how to make heart-healthy choices everyday.

Simple steps to obtain good heart health:

  1. Be aware.

Heart attack symptoms can include a multitude of things. The most common is chest pain and discomfort in the left arm. Women should be aware of silent heart attack symptoms, which include: shortness of breath, back pain, jaw pain and nausea. In the end, if you experience any symptoms mentioned, trust your gut and head to your local emergency room.

  1. Manage stress.

First, you must recognize how stress affects you. Without knowing, stress is your body’s RESPONSE to change. The body reacts by releasing a hormone (adrenaline) that can cause breathing and your heart rate to speed up along rising blood pressure. Constant and or continuous stress can be dangerous to your overall heart health.

  1. Stay active.

Staying healthy doesn’t consist of just eating healthy–you must get active. By helping the heart work more, you’re reducing blood pressure and decreasing blood to form clots. The African-American population also tends to have higher rates of obesity and diabetes, which puts us at greater risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Those who can’t participate in high intensity activities should focus on a low intensity activity such as walking.

Along with working out, be sure to maintain a healthy weight. Keep track of what you eat to help you control your eating and weight. Download the American Heart Association’s food diary. It’s a good resource to help you keep track and reduce calories.

  1. Manage blood pressure

Another major risk for heart disease and stroke is high blood pressure. Having your blood pressure in a healthy range reduces strain on the arteries, heart and kidneys. More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic blacks have high blood pressure developing earlier in life and more severe in blacks than whites.

  1. Reduce blood sugar.

Having a healthy diet plays a major part in blood sugar. Your body uses energy from the majority of food we consume, which is turned into glucose or blood sugar. If your fasting blood sugar level is below 100, you are in the healthy range. If not, your results could indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes.

  1. QUIT smoking.

One of the most effective steps to staying healthy and preventing a heart attack is not smoking. Nicotine makes your heart rate and blood pressure skyrocket. It lowers your tolerance for physical activity and decreases good cholesterol. Smoking also damages your blood vessels and makes your blood sticky, which is a recipe for blood clots. Tobacco and carbon monoxide rob your heart, brain and arteries of oxygen—it’s time to listen to your heart.

Consumers Energy Employees Go Red For Women:

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Whatever it takes for you to live a healthy life, do it. Life is why. For more information on heart healthy tips visit www.heart.org.

Guest blog compiled by Melissa Thrasher, communications director for the American Heart Association and Dr. Monique Butler, chief medical officer at Sinai-Grace Hospital, Detroit Medical Center.