February is American Heart Month. Despite continued advances in medicine, heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. One in every 3 deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equaling 2,200 deaths per day. Each February marks the campaign to increase awareness of heart disease and focus on what each of us can do to decrease our own individual risk.
So what exactly is “heart disease”? Heart disease encompasses any condition that affects the heart. The heart is the main organ of the body that works as a pump; taking old blood from the body, pumping that blood into the lungs where it is replenished with oxygen, and then pumped back to the body to feed and nourish our organs. In order to work, the heart itself relies on blood too, which is supplied by coronary arteries.
According to the American Heart Association, the most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which is when cholesterol-filled plaques build up within the arteries supplying blood to the heart.
When the blockage reaches a certain level, blood flow to the heart becomes compromised, and a heart attack can occur. Some risk factors for developing coronary artery disease include other components of heart disease such as high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia), and tobacco use.
When it comes to preventing and treating heart disease, it’s all about early detection. Be aware of your risk factors, get regular check-ups, and start making positive lifestyle changes to fight heart disease!