We celebrate love this month but there is another matter of the heart to address in February. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named February American Heart Month to encourage a “heart healthy” lifestyle for you and your loved ones. Here, we fact-check some common myths associated with heart disease and offer resources to learn about lowering your risk.
Myth: Heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure only affect men.
Fact: Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Breast cancer claims the lives of 31 women each year while heart disease accounts for one in three deaths annually. The Go Red for Women campaign has been working to raise awareness of women’s heart disease and stroke since 2003.
Myth: I’ll know when I’m having a heart attack.
Fact: Chest pain is common but more understated symptoms can appear, including shortness of breath, nausea, feeling lightheaded, or pain in the arm, jaw, neck, or back. Leg pain can also be associated with peripheral artery disease (PAD). A change in heart rate, while usually not a cause for concern, can be a sign of arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat.
Myth: I’m too young to worry about my cholesterol.
Fact: Heart disease affects people of all ages. AHA recommends getting your cholesterol checked starting at age 20. Tests should be done earlier if there is a history of heart disease in your family. Studies show that cholesterol issues that arise in childhood can evolve into heart disease as an adult.
Myth: There’s nothing I can do about my risk factors for heart disease.
Fact: It’s true that you cannot change genetics but there are ways to lower your risk:
You can also take AHA’s My Life Check assessment to understand steps you can take to improve your heart health.
Dispel more myths on the American Heart Association’s website.
Arinola Gabrielle Awosika, an American Military University graduate, is a member of the WomenHeart Organization and gives back to her community as a speaker, educator and healthy lifestyle advocate. Arinola discusses her own battle with heart health at the 0:53 mark.
The bottom line is that heart disease can affect anyone at any time. Being proactive can be beneficial, such as speaking with your doctor, understanding your own risk factors, and making adjustments to your lifestyle choices. What actions do you take to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle?
By Madeline Roberts
Online Learning Tips Contributor