With Valentine’s Day taking center stage, it is no wonder that February has been dubbed National Heart Health month. During the entire month, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is implementing various initiatives, like its #OurHearts campaign, to open a dialogue on the importance of heart health and lifestyle habits which can help prevent heart disease.
The Heart Truth
Every day, we remember to do things like buckle our seat belts and look both ways before we cross the street. We don’t really think about taking care of our heart every day, but maybe we should be. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. About 659,000 American die from heart disease each year, accounting for nearly one in every four deaths. Damage caused by heart disease is not always obvious. One out of five heart attacks is silent, so paying attention to heart health is vital.
How COVID-19 Can Impact the Heart
Along with direct consequences, like heart disease, poor cardiovascular health also puts you at an increased risk of severe illnesses from COVID-19. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen that the virus can lead to long-term damage to the lungs. Lung damage can prevent oxygen from reaching the heart muscle, ultimately impairing heart tissue. Furthermore, when fighting the virus, the body creates inflammation. If the inflammation goes into overdrive, it can disrupt heartbeats, reduce pumping ability and lead to or worsen arrhythmia. So, no matter your age or current health status, it is always smart to prioritize your heart.
Listen To Your Heart
Knowing how and what numbers to look for and record is a great first step towards better heart health. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are tried and true ways of practicing an overall healthy lifestyle. However, it can be difficult to know what that looks like, specifically, for each individual. Keeping a record of what you eat and logging your activity can help you map out a plan to achieve your health goals. Furthermore, a blood test can show you your cholesterol levels, which can give insight into your overall heart health. And finally, getting your blood pressure checked at least once a year is another number to keep track of for heart health. Consider asking your doctor what your target numbers should be and how often you should check it yourself.
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