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Senior Life: Tips for Healthy Living - February is Heart Health Month

Pharmacy

While many of us will enjoy candy hearts and chocolates this February, we also need to focus on avoiding the number one killer of Americans-- heart disease. This February we celebrate American Heart Month which began in 1964 by President Lyndon B Johnson, who suffered a heart attack nine years prior.

It is clear that cardiovascular (heart) disease is a significant concern as approximately 2,300 people die each day from stroke and heart disease combined. Here are some facts from the American Heart Association who strongly recommends that we make heart health a priority 365 days a year. 

72% of Americans don’t think they are at risk of heart disease

More people are affected by a heart attack each year than the population of Dallas

More people die from heart disease than the combined total of all types of cancer

A large amount of people (83%) believe a heart attack is preventable, but they don’t have the motivation to make changes. It is true that heart disease can be avoided through a healthy lifestyle, in most cases. This includes the following: 

Maintaining a healthy weight

Avoiding or stopping smoking - it is never too late to quit

Treating high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugars

Exercising at least 150 minutes each week (moderate intensity for 30 minutes, 5 days per week)

Keeping routine doctor appointments

Because heart disease is so prevalent, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and stroke. Prompt treatment is crucial to recovery, and adherence to treatments after a heart event is critical. 

Symptoms of a Stroke

The acronym, “F.A.S.T.” can help you remember the warning signs of a stroke, which may help save someone’s life.

F: Face drooping: Ask the person to smile. Is the smile uneven or lopsided? One side may be droopy or numb.

A: Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? One arm may be numb or weak.

S: Speech difficulty: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence to see if they have slurred speech. Can you understand them?

T: Time to call 911: If the person has any of the above symptoms, call 911 and immediately take them to a hospital. This is important even if the symptoms go away. 

Other symptoms of a stroke that typically occur suddenly may include numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or a leg.  This usually is more prevalent on one side of the body.  Other symptoms to watch for are sudden confusion, trouble walking, severe headache, or vision problems.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

A heart attack happens when the blood flow to the heart is drastically reduced or completely blocked, meaning it is not receiving enough oxygen.  Heart attacks occur because the heart’s arteries are narrowed or blocked with cholesterol, fat, and plaques. Approximately every 43 seconds someone experiences a heart attack.

A majority of heart attacks begin slowly and produce mild discomfort or pain. However, some can be intense and occur more suddenly.  If you experience any of the following symptoms, call 911 right away.

Chest discomfort: Usually in the center of the chest, lasting more than a few minutes. This pain may come and go and feel like uncomfortable pressure, fullness, pain, or squeezing.

Discomfort in the upper body: Pain may occur in one or both arms, the neck, jaw, back, or stomach.

Shortness of breath: May occur with or without chest discomfort. 

Other symptoms: May include nausea, feeling lightheaded, or a cold sweat. 

Remember, minutes matter and can make a difference.  Call 911 if you or someone you are with is experiencing signs or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. 

If you have any medication questions or want assistance with getting your own blood pressure cuff, please work with your Lewis Drug Pharmacist. We can help manage your conditions to be sure we keep your heart healthy.

References

American Heart Association. “February Marks 56th Consecutive American Heart Month.” https://www.heart.org/en/around-the-ah... 

American Heart Association. “Stroke Symptoms”. https://www.stroke.org/en/abou... 

American Heart Association. “Warning Signs of a Heart Attack”. https://www.heart.org/en/healt... 

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