Heart Health: How to Keep the Beat
February is American Heart Month, the perfect time to remember how important it is to take care of your heart. Together with the lungs, liver, kidneys, and stomach, the heart comprises one of the five major organs for survival. Here are some heart facts and health tips to help you keep the beat.
Heart Health Over Time
In 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson established American Heart Month to encourage Americans to adopt a healthier lifestyle and become more aware of the importance of heart health.
Sixty years later, there has been a steady decline in death rates from heart disease. The most recent data from the CDC shows that death rates from heart disease declined by 7.3% between 2017 and 2020. This is the largest decrease since the 1990s, when a significant drop in deaths due to heart disease was first observed.
Heart disease remains a major problem, being the cause of one out of every four deaths in the country annually. While the field of cardiac medicine is making a difference, and better treatment and care are available, heart attacks still account for almost 15% of US fatalities yearly.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in healthcare is projected to grow 15 percent by 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. And several occupations related to cardiac care specifically are expected to experience growth in the coming years.
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians assist physicians with diagnosing and treating patients with heart and blood vessel problems. According to the BLS, employment in these occupations is projected to grow 7% by 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
Employment of Registered Nurses is also projected to grow 7% by 2029, while demand for Physician Assistants is projected to grow 31%!
What can you do to keep your heart healthy?
Nutritionists recommend focusing on a balanced diet, including nutrient-rich superfoods that enable your heart to do its big job. Some top superfoods for heart health include fatty fish, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, oats, avocados, berries, and dark chocolate. These foods contain essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that support cardiovascular health. Additionally, they provide antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body and protect against free radical damage.
Exercise can also help. While it’s important to remember that everyone’s heart health needs are different, the American Heart Association guidelines suggest 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise weekly for healthy adults. All movement counts. Can you step out of the office at lunch with a colleague and add a walk to your workday? Maybe you can get off the commuter train at an exit sooner or park in the farthest spot to up your steps? Additionally, the AHA recommends two days of strength training to support heart health further.
Avoid smoking. Smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers. More than half of heart attacks in women younger than 50 are related to smoking.
A smoker who quits by age 30 returns to the mortality patterns of a nonsmoker. Smoking cessation yields rapid benefits towards heart disease; cardiac function improves within a day, and half the excess risk of heart attack is gone in one year.
Avoid stress. Chronic stress can cause heart trouble.
Positive psychological health is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death. The AMA recommends stress management or relaxation classes, regular exercise, making time for friends and family, getting good sleep, having a positive attitude, and reaching out to a health care professional for help if needed.
A Holistic Approach: All of the Above Matters.
Holistic heart health means taking care of your heart in every way possible. This includes eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, managing stress, and getting regular checkups. Taking care of your heart can prevent many health problems and contribute to a long, healthy life.
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