February is National Heart Month — Keep Your Heart Healthy

February is generally recognized as the month of love because of Valentine’s day; however, February is also American Heart Month and it serves as a reminder for us to take care of ourselves and the organ that makes loving one another possible — our hearts.

The first American Heart Month was declared by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 and has been celebrated since then.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), heart disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and more concern for protecting our hearts arises during the increased risk of illness during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC reports that nearly 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year (one in every four deaths) and it costs the nation nearly $219 billion each year in health care services and medicine costs.

President Biden briefed America on Feb. 3, 2021 about the continuing affects heart diseases have on Americans and how his administration is committed to fight the disease by “promoting better health, wellness, and prevention awareness in our communities” and “supporting American’s in their efforts to achieve heart health.” According to this same briefing, many insurance plans cover preventative heart disease services under the Affordable Care Act.

West Liberty University’s Assistant Professor of Nursing Barbara Kulpa and Instructor of Nursing, Kelsay Garvin explain the importance of keeping a healthy heart, causes of heart diseases, and a few ways a person can help prevent heart disease.

According to Kulpa, keeping a healthy heart is important because heart disease affects people of all ages and genders. Kulpa shared some unhealthy lifestyles contributing to heart disease including: our diets (eating too much processed food and fast food), smoking (causes lung damage and contracts blood vessels) and lack of exercise. “Changes in diet, activity can address several contributing factors to heart disease as well as stopping smoking and limiting alcohol intake. Stress has also been found to be a contributing factor and things such as yoga, meditation, reading or even running has been shown to help. Being compliant with medications also helps,” explained Kulpa.

Garvin is a cardiac nurse and feels being aware of heart health is important at all times, especially when making lifestyle choices. “ A lot of times making big lifestyle changes like this can seem overwhelming. It’s important to get it done, but you can start in small steps. Cut out fast food, which is high in salt and fat. Start taking a daily walk for 30 minutes during your lunch or before/after work 5 days a week. Smoking, however, has got to go,” said Garvin.

Garvin also shared some of the discomforts of heart disease saying, “I’ve been a cardiac nurse for the past eight years. I have seen people come in time and again with heart-related illnesses. It is ugly and unforgiving. The sad part is that it is often avoidable.”

For more information about American Heart Month, heart diseases, and ways to avoid them, please visit the American Heart Association website.