With February being recognized as the American Heart Association’s American Heart Month, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) calls on New Jerseyans to make heart health a key lifestyle goal.
Some risk factors for cardiovascular diseases like age, race, gender and family history can’t be controlled, but others like high blood pressure, lack of regular physical activity and diabetes can be treated or managed.
According to NJDOH, heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans across the nation. For the Garden State, it’s the number one cause of death, claiming more than 18,000 lives annually.
“Everyone needs to take heart health seriously,” said Acting Commissioner of Health Shereef M. Elnahal, MD, MBA, in a February 1 statement announcing this health education initiative. “Preventing heart disease begins with knowledge and awareness of the risks and symptoms and taking the right steps to protect your heart,” he says.
Research findings indicate that people dying of heart disease at a younger age, but risk factors that contribute to poor heart health are increasing. “Physical inactivity, tobacco use and hypertension increase the likelihood of developing heart disease,” said Elnahal. “The good news is people can often prevent heart disease by making healthy choices involving diet and exercise, and by managing their health conditions such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels,” he notes.
Women and Heart Disease
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in this country, accounting for one in every four deaths. Yet only 54 percent of women recognize that heart disease is their number one cause of death.
NJDOH says that “In New Jersey, more than 11,000 women die of heart disease and stroke annually. Women account for nearly half of deaths due to diseases of the heart (more than 9,000), and 58 percent of stroke deaths (nearly 2,000). An estimated 2.5 percent have been diagnosed with angina or coronary heart disease, and an estimated 2.5 percent report they have had a stroke. An estimated 3.1 percent report having had a heart attack.”
Heart disease is the also the leading cause of death for people of most ethnicities in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, and whites, says the CDC, noting that for American Indians or Alaska Natives and Asians or Pacific Islanders, heart disease is second only to cancer.
Easy Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Heart
Consider these suggestions to help you maintain a healthy heart.
Make time to be active and schedule at least 50 minutes of physical activity per week. Invite your friends to join you in exercising, attend exercise classes or play sports with your family and friends.
Planning nutritious meals can lead to a healthier heart. Look for ways to decease sodium and trans-fat intake in your died, adding more fruit and vegetables.
Say no to smoking. Smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products harms nearly every organ in your body, including your heart. For support and help to quit call the New Jersey Quitline at 1-866-NJSTOP.
Regularly check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and know your numbers. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are considered major risk factors for heart disease.
Finally, take your medication as prescribed to manage and control medical conditions that might increase risk for a heart attack or stroke.
For more details on improving your heart’s health and preventing heart disease, visit the NJDOH website at https://nj.gov/health/fhs/chronic/heart-disease-stroke/, the AHA at http://www.heart.org/, and the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/about.htm. For more information on the AHA’s Go Red for Women Campaign, visit http://www.goredforwomen.org.