Health: An Important Matter of the Heart
DES MOINES, Iowa – While February is a month dedicated to love, it's also a time to focus on other matters of the heart. It is American Heart Month, when Iowans are encouraged to learn more about heart disease and make a commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
Kassi Wessing, communications director for the American Heart Association in Iowa, says as the number one killer, cardiovascular disease is to blame for one in four deaths nationally. But she explains nearly 80 percent of cardiac events are preventable.
"There's not a lot we can do about genetics, but there are those risk factors that we can take control of, such as getting physically active and making sure we're eating a healthy diet, making sure we're talking to our doctor, knowing our numbers – like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose," she explained.
Wessing adds quitting smoking is another important prevention measure. February 3rd is Wear Red Day. Iowans are asked to don red to help raise awareness of heart disease and stroke among women. In Iowa, nearly 10,000 people lose their lives to heart disease every year, including one in three women.
Wessing explains it's never too early to start learning about heart health, and she says healthy habits should be passed along to the next generation.
"For the most part, every single person is born in ideal cardiovascular health, and the goal is to keep it that way," she said. "So, as we grow up and we start with our young kids, we certainly want to be introducing those fruits and vegetables to them, be introducing that active lifestyle to them. Those are things that we want to instill at a young age."
She says another important aspect of heart health is knowing the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke. Heart attack symptoms might include pressure, fullness or pain in the center of the chest; pain or discomfort in the arms, back, or head; shortness of breath; and chills, nausea or light-headedness.
The signs of a stroke include face drooping, arm weakness or speech difficulty. In either situation, Wessing says it is critical to call 911.