Raising Awareness of Heart Disease
February is the time of year to focus on heart healthy behaviors as American Heart Month rolls around.
American Heart Month is a time to battle cardiovascular disease and educate Americans about living healthy lives.
According to healthyyou.org, those who have higher risks of heart diseases are women aged 55 years or older, men aged 45 years or older and people with family histories of early heart diseases.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in conjunction with the Million Hearts Initiative are coordinating a national effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States by 2017 and encouraging Americans to know their blood pressure.
Professor of Biological Sciences Ronald Gaines said enough information is out there for people to learn more about heart disease.
“I know that, particularly in Lawton, our hospitals are very aggressive in promoting that knowledge,” Gaines said. “They regularly have full page ads on the paper telling people about the facilities for treatment [and] the risk factors. They offer low cost screening options, so certainly the material is out there.”
Gaines said it is important to enlighten people about heart attacks.
“The CDC has said that heart attack is the number one cause of deaths and disability in the United States,” he said, “and stroke is the number five cause of death. So obviously there is a good chance that you are personally going to be impacted, or if you are not, somebody you know.”
Gaines also said a lot of the major causes of heart attacks in America today can be prevented.
“The number one cause of heart disease is smoking,” Gaines said, “and certainly smoking is entirely preventable.
“There is lot of national attention on trying to do that and a lot of mechanism for stopping smoking. The other major risk factor besides genetics is diet and exercise. Because we have abundant food, obesity is a contributing factor.”
Gaines believes society as a whole is doing its best to reach the CDC goal.
“It is just so hard to change people’s behavior,” Gaines said, “but you see the publicity, the emphasis on obesity and its contribution to not just heart attacks but other diseases. The state of Oklahoma has the tobacco hot lines to help you stop smoking and here are lots of options that are not expensive to encourage and support people to make this life style changes.”
Senior biology major Mariama Abramson said young people need to observe their lives.
“It’s never too early to take your health into consideration,” Abramson said, “so it’s important to start early – monitoring your life style and what effects that has on your health.”
Senior biology major Alexander Rivers said people should watch their sugar levels.
“The things you do at the earlier stage of your life will definitely affect you later on,” Rivers said, “so it makes sense to say, ‘I don’t need to drink that soda today. I will just drink water instead and limit my sugar intake.’”
Studies have also shown that exercising regularly and eating the right food can help you keep in shape, which in turn helps to eliminate obesity and heart disease. Professor of Sports and Exercise Science Andra Hunt emphasized the importance of exercise in prevention practice.
“The American College of Sports Medicine says at least five to six days a week, we should be participating in some form of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise,” Hunt said. They say at least get 150 minutes a week of cardio vascular exercise.”
Visit cdc.gov for more information about American Heart Month.