I can’t let February, which is Heart Month, end without a mention of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
My late husband suffered a massive heart attack, went into cardiac arrest, and died 10 years ago this May, at the age of 45. Since then, for our son’s sake, I’ve made it my business to educate myself about heart disease. His father’s early death handed our then-five-year-old a built-in risk factor for heart disease: heredity.
What You Need to Know
More men and women die of cardiovascular disease in the United States than from any other cause. Preliminary 2003 statistics show that CVD was the cause of over 910,000 deaths that year, or one in every 2.7 deaths.
Cardiovascular disease alone killed more people in 2003 than the next four leading causes of death (cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, and diabetes mellitus) combined.
While many women fear breast cancer more than heart disease, the facts are that, while breast cancer was responsible for one in 30 female deaths in 2003, CVD caused one in 2.6 female deaths.
Cardiovascular disease includes high blood pressure; coronary heart disease (myocardial infarction and angina pectoris); heart failure;
stroke; and congenital cardiovascular defects. One in three adults in the United States has some form of CVD.
Although the statistics look pretty grim, there is so much that we can do to decrease our risk. Although several risk factors can’t be changed, most can be modified, treated or controlled, according to the American Heart Association (AHA) (http://www.americanheart.org).
Three risk factors that we can’t control are age (risk increases with age); sex (male – men’s risk of heart attack is greater than women’s); and heredity (as in my son’s case, if your father or mother had heart disease, then you’re more likely to develop it yourself).
Heredity also includes race: heart disease risk is greater among African-Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians and some Asian Americans.
Fortunately, the majority of risk factors for heart disease are controllable, according to the AHA. These include smoking, inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight, and diabetes – all factors that an individual can modify to reduce his or her risk.
Other factors that can add to your risk include stress and alcohol.
How to Decrease Your Risk
The American Heart Association lists 10 ways to reduce your heart disease risks.
1. See your doctor for an annual physical examination.
2. Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
3. Drink more water.
4. Eat less junk food and more healthy food.
5. Control cholesterol with a diet low in saturated fat and trans fat.
6. Reduce your salt intake.
7. If you smoke, stop.
8. Keep your weight at a healthy level.
9. If you slip up on any of these, don’t give up; just get yourself back on track.
10. Do something special for yourself as a reward for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
I don’t have to remind you that, as single parents, we have an even greater responsibility to do what we can to keep ourselves healthy. It’s important to take care of our health, not only for our own sakes, but for our children’s too.