Heart Health Awareness Month

Feb. 13, 2024

In November we discussed Heart Disease 101 ( Protect your Heart: Heart Disease and Management | Center for Rural Health (arizona.edu)). This article will review the American Heart Association newest report and contributing factors that put you at risk of heart diseases. 

The 2024 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics report by the American Heart Association underscores persistently high rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke, with annual deaths in the U.S. nearing 1 million. Despite advancements in understanding CVD risk factors and prevention methods, there remains a gap between knowledge and practice. In rural Arizona, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke are prevalent due to limited healthcare access and high rates of hypertension, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles. Targeted interventions, including telemedicine and community outreach, are vital to bridging knowledge-practice gaps and addressing disparities, promoting cardiovascular health equity in rural areas.      

How does being overweight contribute to the risk of heart disease?

Being overweight, especially around the midsection (waist circumference), increases the risk of heart disease by leading to conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

What is the significance of Body Mass Index (BMI) in assessing weight-related health risks?

BMI, calculated using height and weight, determines if a person is overweight or obese. A BMI of 25 or higher indicates overweight status, which is associated with elevated cholesterol, blood pressure, and a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke.

 How does waist circumference relate to heart disease risk?

Higher waist measurements, exceeding 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women, correlate with an increased risk of heart disease, particularly due to excessive belly fat.

What are the health benefits of even a small weight loss?

 Even modest weight loss (3% to 5%) can improve health by reducing triglycerides, lowering blood sugar levels, cutting the risk of type 2 diabetes, and decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

 How does inadequate sleep affect heart health?

 Insufficient sleep raises the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, and depression, emphasizing the importance of getting at least seven hours of sleep per night for adults.

 What steps can individuals take to manage stress for heart health?

Managing stress through healthy strategies like physical activity, relaxation techniques, mindfulness, yoga, and meditation can mitigate its adverse effects on blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease.

How often should adults undergo blood pressure and cholesterol screenings?

 Blood pressure should be measured at least once every two years starting from age 18, with yearly screenings for individuals aged 40 and older. Cholesterol screenings typically begin between ages 9 and 11 and should be repeated every five years, with increased frequency for certain age groups.

When should individuals start screening for type 2 diabetes?

 Diabetes screening typically starts at age 45, or earlier if risk factors are present. Subsequent screenings occur every three years if initial tests are normal.

 What preventive measures can individuals take against infections to safeguard heart health?

 Regular dental care, including daily brushing and flossing, along with vaccinations against diseases like the flu, COVID-19, pneumococcal infections, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, help prevent infections that may exacerbate heart problems.

Resources to learn more about heart health: