How You Can Celebrate American Heart Month
American Heart Month is exactly what it sounds like: a month-long celebration focused on cardiovascular health.
More specifically, American Heart Month is all about raising awareness of risk factors for heart disease.
Our hearts are — well — you already know what they do. In the physical sense, they are the core of our physical health. When the heart hurts (physically), the rest of the body follows like a cardiovascular domino effect.
Whether you’re a pharmacist, doctor, or patient (or somewhere in between), American Hearth Month is the perfect time to take stock of your body’s health.
Use this month-long holiday as a chance to learn about the various risk factors of heart disease and how you can make American Heart Month a way of life.
Before we explore the science behind heart disease, here’s how American Heart Month came to be.
It originated in 1964 when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared February of that year to be the inaugural American Heart Month. We’ve been celebrating every year since.
He hoped that the month-long holiday would raise greater awareness of heart disease, inform citizens of the disease, and teach them how to improve their cardiovascular health.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
The definition of heart disease is a fairly broad one. The NIH describes heart disease as a “catch-all phrase for a variety of conditions that affect the heart’s structure and how it works.”
Coronary artery disease is the most common kind of heart disease, with 18.2 million Americans having the disease, according to the CDC.
About 366,000 Americans die from coronary heart disease each year, according to the NIH.
The NIH states that people with heart disease rarely show symptoms and won’t know if they have it until they experience chest pains, a heart attack, or cardiac arrest.
Because these scenarios are extremely dire, it’s best to practice a healthier lifestyle that makes you less likely to develop heart disease.
Check out the NIH’s “Know the Difference” fact sheet for more information on heart disease and how to protect yourself from it.
Because victims of heart disease rarely show symptoms until it’s too late, it’s recommended to take some precautionary measures. The measure in question is simple, though not exactly easy: be healthier.
It’s difficult to change your habits, especially if those new habits include lifting heavy weights and running long distances outside.
When it comes to adopting an exercise routine, it’s easy to think you have to hit the ground running. Marathon runners don’t start out by running a 26-mile run.
It takes time, effort, and patience most of all.
Get a routine that works best for you within a schedule that best suits you. Once you get the routine down, all you need to do is run a little further and lift a little more. The rest will take care of itself.
A stronger body is a healthier body, meaning it is less susceptible to heart disease. But there’s another important part to this health equation. Record reps or record runs won’t get you very far (health-wise) without a healthy diet.
The general wisdom is that overall health consists of 20% exercise and 80% diet. That means the fastest mile or the biggest dumbbell won’t do you much good in establishing a truly healthy lifestyle.
The NIH recommends reducing your sodium intake — meaning you might want to go easy on pizza, bread, rolls, and burritos. Check out the CDC’s “Top 10 Sources Sodium” page to learn more about unhealthy and healthy sodium.
Then there are fruits and vegetables, natural foods that we all know are beneficial to our general health. The NIH recommends including more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.
Though you should always have a healthy diet, American Heart Month is a superb way to course-correct your health journey if needed. Diet and exercise are essential in achieving good cardiovascular health, but there are other ways to lead a healthier life.
Furthermore, there are ways to celebrate American Heart Month than only monitoring what’s on the dinner table.
Our general health is never static. It is always changing and evolving. Some of those changes are good, whereas others are — well — not so good.
That’s why it’s important to regularly check in with your primary care physician. It lets you be up-to-date with your cardiovascular health and detect potential health scares before they grow.
As with many cases surrounding your cardiovascular health, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Diet and exercise are not the only things that influence your cardiovascular health. Your mental and emotional health play a key role in your relationship with heart disease.
It goes without saying that social media heavily shapes our mental and emotional states. The dopamine rush it provides does more harm than good. We know that. Yet, it’s often difficult to adopt less “stimulating” habits.
Meditation, specifically mindfulness meditation, can serve as a detox for our minds and bodies. Just a few minutes of sitting with your eyes closed can give you some much-needed mental clarity.
Meditation can help reset your mind and have a clearer idea of how you want to spend your time. Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool for promoting great cardiovascular health in a holistic way. Just make sure your phone is in another room.
Everything’s a little more fun when you do it with a partner. Whether it’s a workout buddy, running buddy, or just someone to talk to, your health journey can get a little easier if you bring a friend along.
Remember that you don’t have to go at it alone. In fact, you’ll be more likely to hold on to your diet or workout routine if you have someone to hold you accountable.
American Heart Month is a month of awareness and celebration, so feel free to bring others on the ride.
The best way to celebrate American Heart Month is to continue the journey of becoming a better you. Heart disease can sneak up on the unlikeliest people, so be in the know when it comes to your health.
Go to the doctor’s office regularly. Have a groovy workout routine followed by a stellar diet. Meditate for a little while. The journey to quality cardiovascular health is a long one, but it’s better than the alternative.