American Heart Month

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American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, an observance designed to increase awareness of heart disease and encourage people to reduce their risk of heart disease.

What is Heart Disease?

The term “heart disease” includes many different problems related to the heart, most of which are caused by a process called atherosclerosis – a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries.

It starts when there is damage to the lining of the coronary arteries, which bring oxygen-rich blood into the heart. Cholesterol combines with fat, calcium and other substances in the blood to form plaque, which then collects at these damaged spots in the arteries.

The plaque causes the arteries to narrow, making it harder for the blood to pump through them. If the plaque hardens and breaks off, cells in the blood known as platelets may stick to that injured spot and clump together and cause blood clots. These clots can completely block the artery and cause a heart attack. If that clot makes its way to a blood vessel that feeds blood to the brain, it can cause a stroke.

Understanding the Common Causes

There are risk factors for heart disease that are beyond your control, such as your sex, age and family history. Men, the elderly, and people with a family member who has heart disease are more likely to develop it.

There are other risk factors it’s possible to control to a certain extent, since they are related to lifestyle choices. These include smoking, physical inactivity, poor diet, stress, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Five Changes to Lower Your Risk

Here are five ways to get started on your journey to a healthier heart:

  1. Quit Smoking: If you’ve smoked for a long time, this may not seem like a small thing. However, your doctor can help you quit by providing medication to reduce your cravings and recommending resources to help support your decision to quit.
  2. Exercise More: You should get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. However, start small. If you don’t exercise at all now, begin with something achievable such as walking around the block a few times per week.
  3. Revamp Your Diet: You don’t have to skip your favorite treats. Small changes like eating an extra serving of fruits and vegetables per day and replacing red meat with lean chicken or fish will help.
  4. Get Tested: If you haven’t had a cholesterol or blood pressure check in a while, make an appointment today. If your results are too high, your doctor can help you get them under control through medication and lifestyle changes.
  5. Take a Deep Breath: Stress can be a killer. While it’s impossible to eliminate stress completely from your life, practicing yoga and meditation, increasing your exercise and seeking a counselor who can suggest with stress-reduction techniques can help.

Talk to your doctor if you need advice – even small changes can make a big difference when it comes to preventing heart disease.

Request an Appointment

To request an appointment with a cardiovascular physician or for a non-invasive cardiac test at a Crozer Healthfacility, please complete the online secure appointment form below or call 1-866-957-8573. A representative will get back to you within the next business day. We regret that we cannot take appointment requests for pediatric patients at this time.

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