WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — February is American Heart Month, and Civilian Health Promotion Services will be offering educational briefings throughout February focusing on how to lower your risk factors for developing heart disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600,000 Americans die of heart disease each year.
This February, Air Force Materiel Command will promote awareness of heart-healthy behaviors to help the workforce reduce the risks for developing heart disease.
Heart disease describes a range of conditions that can affect the heart. Diseases under the heart disease umbrella include blood vessel diseases, vessels that provide oxygen and nutrients to the heart and brain; heart rhythm problems, or dysrhythmias; and heart defects people are born with, or congenital heart defects.
The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease. CHD is caused by plaque buildup inside the coronary arteries. Plaque is primarily made up of cholesterol and calcium, and this buildup causes the inside of the arteries to narrow over time. This could partially, or totally, block blood flow. This process is called atherosclerosis. If the plaque ruptures inside of the artery, a blood clot can form on its surface. Blood clots can partially or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery.
If blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced or blocked it can lead to chest pain called angina, or a heart attack. A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of the heart is cut off. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly, that section of heart muscle begins to die. Without quick treatment, a heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest and death.
Many CHD risk factors can be prevented and controlled with heart-healthy lifestyle choices. The CDC lists the following lifestyle behaviors to lower your risk for heart disease:
Don’t smoke – Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Both smoking and regular exposure to other people’s smoke increases your risk of heart disease. If you smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. All Federal Employee Health Benefits plans offer 100% coverage of tobacco cessation treatment options. Additional information about this is available at www.opm.gov.
Maintain a healthy weight – If you have too much body fat, especially at the waist, you have a higher risk for heart disease. A high-risk waistline is 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men. Also, a higher body mass index increases the risk for heart disease, especially for a BMI that is greater than 30. Healthy weight range is 18.5 to 24.9 on the BMI height and weight chart. Additional information about this is available at www.nhlbi.nih.gov.
Be physically active – The CDC physical activity guidelines recommend adults should engage in moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 150 minutes every week. Activity should be at least 10 minutes in length at a time, and at intervals throughout the week. Do activities that make you breathe harder and make your heart beat faster, like brisk walking. Regular physical activity can reduce your chances of developing heart disease by burning extra calories for weight management, lowering blood pressure, and increasing levels of good cholesterol, or HDL, while lowering levels of bad cholesterol, or LDL. Additional information about this is available at www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity
Eat heart healthy – Put together an eating plan that offers the balance of calories that is right for you, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low/fat-free dairy products, poultry, fish, lean meats, and legumes. Limit sweets, sodium, sugar-sweetened beverages, saturated and trans fat, alcohol, processed meats, and red meats. Additional information about this is available at www.cdc.gov/nutrition.
For more information regarding CHPS activities for American Heart Month, visit www.AFMCwellness.com or contact your local CHPS team. Comprehensive information on how to prevent heart disease can be found on the National Institutes of Health website at www.nhlbi.nih.gov.