February 3, 2021 – It may be difficult to focus beyond a global pandemic
and the anxiety of waiting to receive a
coronavirus vaccine, but serious health concerns, such as cardiovascular disease, don't
take a break, not even for COVID-19. February is Heart Health Month, and
the Southeast Georgia Health System
Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation team encourages everyone to join the battle against heart disease by wearing
red on Friday Feb. 5, 2021, National Wear Red Day.
Heart disease remains the single largest health threat to Americans –
accounting for more deaths than all forms of cancer combined for both
men and women. According to the American Heart Association, someone in
the U.S. dies of cardiovascular disease about every 40 seconds –
that represents 2,200 people per day.
Heart disease risk factors
Some risk factors can make you more likely than the average person to develop
heart disease, which sets the stage for heart attacks and cardiac arrest.
Some of these risk factors, like age, can’t be prevented, but others,
like diet and exercise, are well within your control:
- Age 55 and older or postmenopausal women. One factor contributing to this
risk is the decline in the hormone estrogen (which offers women some heart
protection) that occurs after menopause.
- High blood pressure. This damages the heart's arteries. In addition,
women are more prone to heart disease if they had high blood pressure
during pregnancy, a condition known as pre-eclampsia.
- High cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol (the bad kind of cholesterol)
in the blood can clog arteries in the heart, triggering a heart attack.
- Diabetes. Or if you have its precursor, prediabetes.
- Family history. If your father or brother had a heart attack before age
55 or your mother or sister had one before age 65, your risk rises too.
- Overweight or obese. Extra weight is hard on the heart.
- Unhealthy lifestyle choices. These include eating unhealthy foods, smoking
or not exercising.
Four ways to protect your heart
A good first step is to visit your health care provider. Ask about your
personal risk for heart disease and what you can do to lower it. Studies
show that a cardiac rehabilitation program can increase life expectancy
for individuals with heart issues by up to five years. The Health System’s
Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program has been helping patients improve
their heart and lung function, physical stamina and overall health for
more than 25 years and is certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular
and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. Oftentimes when patients suffer from heart
disease, their physical fitness becomes quite limited. Cardiopulmonary
rehabilitation is a bridge to getting back to exercising and living a
In the meantime, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce
your risk of heart disease:
- Carve out time for some exercise. Walking is easy, and every step helps.
- Eat more heart-healthy foods. Focus more on fruits, vegetables and whole
grains. Choose foods low in salt and sodium, added sugars, and saturated
or trans fats.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Eating sensible food portions and exercising can help.
- If you smoke, try your best to quit. Your heart will thank you!
In addition to protecting your heart health, you also have the power to
protect others by learning Hands-Only CPR. Every second counts in cardiac
arrest, a condition which can strike at any time.
sghs.org/cardiopulmonary to watch a powerful video from the American Heart Association and Anthem
Foundation that shows how a bystander can perform Hands-Only CPR. Being
cognizant of your heart health as well as becoming familiar with Hands-Only
CPR can save a life.