February is Heart Month in the United States and it’s purpose is to bring awareness of the prevalence of coronary artery disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death of both men and women in our country. Men report a higher rate of heart disease than women and is especially high among Black adults. According to the CDC there are 696,962 deaths per year which translates into 211.5 deaths per 100,000 people. (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/heart-disease.htm)
What does that mean for those of us living in the state of Iowa? According to the Iowa Department of Public Health in 2020, 7,444 Iowans died from heart disease and 1,390 died from strokes. In 2020 heart disease and stroke deaths account 24.6% of all deaths in Iowa. In 2020 there were 23,440 hospitalizations and $1.4 billion dollars in cost associated with heart disease. (https://hhs.iowa.gov/hdsp/reports)
What are we talking about when we say heart disease? Heart disease includes many things. The most common form of heart disease is called coronary artery disease, which is a disease of the major blood vessels of the heart. Plaque made from cholesterol can build up in the blood vessel walls and cause a narrowing which decreases blood flow to the heart. This can cause chest pain or what we would refer to as angina, a heart attack, heart failure, or a stroke. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353118)
We can also experience irregular heart beats or arrhythmias. This means that your heart may beat too fast, too slow, can cause you to feel short of breath, have chest discomfort, feel fluttering in your chest, feel lightheaded or dizzy with possibility of fainting. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353118)
Some people are born with defects of the heart and that is called congenital heart disease. Other forms of heart disease can include disease of the heart muscle called cardiomyopathy or disease of the heart valves. If you have disease of your heart valves you may have to have the valves repaired or replaced. ( https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353118)
Heart month is to remind us that there are things that we can do to decrease our risk of developing heart disease. They include moving more, eating healthy, controlling your blood pressure, managing your cholesterol, managing your blood sugar, managing your stress, quit smoking or using tobacco products, and working with your healthcare provider.
Prevention is the key. Not only do we need to do these things to decrease our risk of heart disease, but we need to teach our children these important things to help them decrease the risk of developing heart disease and keep them from becoming one of the statistics.
Christine Drake, RN, BSN