February is Heart Month

When did February become heart health month? 

 American Heart Month was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson under Presidential Proclamation 3566 in December 1963, 10 days after Congress issued a joint resolution requesting the president to issue an annual proclamation.

In his remarks announcing February 1964 as the first American Heart Month, President Johnson urged “the people of the United States to give heed to the nationwide problem of the heart and blood-vessel diseases, and to support the programs required to bring about its solution.” Johnson’s action marked a pivotal point in the nation’s approach to addressing cardiovascular disease.

Not long after the official launch of American Heart Month, the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was published on Jan. 11, 1964. This landmark publication, released by Surgeon General Luther Terry, MD, was the first federal government report to link smoking and negative health impacts, including lung cancer and heart disease.

“American Heart Month provides an important opportunity to emphasize the sharing of best practices, aligning measurements, advancing implementation strategies, and providing leadership to focus on the burden of cardiovascular disease.”

We’ve come a long way since 1964. Today, American Heart Month brings together a wide array of public, private and governmental organizations to shed light on how far we’ve come and the work that needs to continue. While annual deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke have declined since the first Surgeon General’s report, heart disease continues to be a public health burden and a leading cause of death for both men and women. Cardiovascular disease accounts for one of every four deaths in the United States every year and many of these are preventable. https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2017/02/21/12/42/the-evolution-of-american-heart-month

This is the 58th anniversary of Heart Month in the United States and yet heart disease is still the leading cause of death for men and women. 

The American Heart Association continues to promote live style changes including a minimum of 150 minutes per week of exercise including aerobic activity and strength training.  Eating a diet low in cholesterol, saturated and trans fats.  Including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and managing portion sizes.  Seeing your healthcare provider annually, tobacco and vaping cessation, moderate alcohol intake and managing your stress. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living

Healthcare providers are monitoring our mental health and it’s impact on our overall health.  Heart disease is no exception to this.  There is growing evidence that mental health is an additional risk factor that needs to be considered when managing heart disease.  According to the CDC A large and growing body of research shows that mental health is associated with risk factors for heart disease before a diagnosis of a mental health disorder and during treatment. These effects can arise both directly, through biological pathways, and indirectly, through risky health behaviors.

People experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, and even PTSD over a long period of time may experience certain physiologic effects on the body, such as increased cardiac reactivity (e.g., increased heart rate and blood pressure), reduced blood flow to the heart, and heightened levels of cortisol. Over time, these physiologic effects can lead to calcium buildup in the arteries, metabolic disease, and heart disease.

Evidence shows that mental health disorders—such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD—can develop after cardiac events, including heart failure, stroke, and heart attack. These disorders can be brought on after an acute heart disease event from factors including pain, fear of death or disability, and financial problems associated with the event.

Some literature notes the impact of medicines used to treat mental health disorders on cardiometabolic disease risk. The use of some antipsychotic medications has been associated with obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, stroke, and death.

Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression may increase the chance of adopting behaviors such as smoking, inactive lifestyle, or failure to take prescribed medications. This is because people experiencing a mental health disorder may have fewer healthy coping strategies for stressful situations, making it difficult for them to make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce their risk for heart disease.

Addressing mental health disorders early by providing access to appropriate services and support to increase healthy behaviors (e.g., increased physical activity, improved diet quality, and reduced smoking) can reduce someone’s risk of experiencing a heart disease event. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/mentalhealth.htm

Christine Drake RN, BSN