National Consumers League

Health

NCL Health Issues

Love your ticker during American Heart Month - and year-round!

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February is American Heart Health MonthDid you know that more than one in four deaths in the United States can be attributed to heart disease? There's never been a better time for consumers to take a little time to recognize the leading cause of death in America and learn about protecting their own heart.

NCL's Script Your Future campaign, which is raising awareness among patients - especially those with chronic conditions like heart disease - about the importance of following doctor's orders and sticking to treatment regimes, has partnered with Million HeartsTM to spread the word about heart health this month.

The Million Hearts initiative was set up in 2011 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in recognition of the fact that heart disease is a silent killer in our communities. Its goal is to raise awareness of these facts and work to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. in five years. The Million Hearts initiative is focusing on promoting the interventions to reduce heart attacks and strokes – the ABCS:

  • Aspirin to prevent heart attacks for people who need it
  • Blood pressure control
  • Cholesterol management
  • Quitting Smoking

Heart Disease 4-1-1

Heart disease is an umbrella term used to describe several different types of heart conditions, including the more common coronary artery disease (which can cause a heart attack), angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

Risk Factors

Anyone, including children, can develop heart disease. Nine out of ten heart disease patients have at least one risk factor, which can include both the uncontrollable and controllable.

Uncontrollable risk factors include:

  • family history (including race)
  • age
  • gender

Controllable risk factors include:

  • smoking
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • physical inactivity
  • obesity
  • diabetes

Symptoms

We are all familiar with the classic, as-seen-on-tv sign of a heart attack. Unfortunately, most heart attacks start slowly, with only mild pain or discomfort, which can lead to a devastating delay in treatment.

According to the American Heart Association, symptoms of a heart attack may include:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 9–1–1 immediately.

Prevention

We have the power to reduce our risk for heart disease. We can take several steps to help keep the plaque from building up in our arteries and to keep our hearts healthy and strong.

According to the American Heart Association, our heart is healthiest when we meet the following seven health measures:

  1. never smoked or quit smoking more than one year ago
  2. healthy body mass index (BMI)
  3. regular physical activity – 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly
  4. blood pressure below 120/80
  5. fasting blood glucose less than 100 milligrams/deciliter, a fasting measure of blood sugar level
  6. total cholesterol of less than 200 milligrams/deciliter
  7. eating a healthy diet

The American Heart Association has developed My Life Check as a tool for consumers to use to improve their behavior and a healthier heart.

Screening and early detection

If you have any of the risk factors for heart disease, talk with your doctor often about your health and any symptoms you may have experienced or continue to experience. You and your doctor might decide it is appropriate for a chest x-ray, stress test, and/or a coronary angiography.

Treatment

While there is no cure for heart disease, it can be treated. Some forms of treatment include:

  • lifestyle changes
  • medications
  • angioplasty
  • coronary bypass

Take the pledge

If you don't take your medicine as directed, you're putting your heart -- and your health and future -- at risk. If you have been diagnosed as having heart health issues, taking your medicine as directed is an important step toward a longer, healthier life. NCL and its partners have launched the Script Your Future campaign to educate consumers about the importance of following their healthcare treatment regimes and improving their health -- and futures -- by following doctors' orders.

At ScriptYourFuture.org, cardiovascular patients have a special section specific to their needs. You can create your own personal pledge, print it, and use it to remind yourself of all the reasons you have to stay healthy and to take your medicine. You can also get a wallet card to keep track of your prescriptions, as well as other tools -- like text reminders -- that help improve medication adherence.

Women and heart disease

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. Women are more than five times as likely to die from heart disease as from breast cancer. In fact, nearly twice as many American women die from heart disease and stroke than from all types of cancer combined.

For many years, women were unaware that heart disease could affect them in the same way it could men. While more and more women now know that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, too many still feel it can’t or won’t happen to them. Many more admit that living a healthy lifestyle – getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, eating healthy, etc. – can be a real challenge.

Though the risk for heart disease increases with age, women of all ages should be aware of and work to prevent heart disease.

Kids

The risk of heart disease is no longer just a concern for adults. With childhood obesity on the rise – 1 in 3 children and teens are overweight or obese, it is believed that for the first time in American history, the current generation of young people may live shorter lives than their parents. Adults need to lead by example and teach children how to develop healthy habits for life.

Some initiatives underway to help improve the health of America’s children and instill the skills for living a healthy life include:

  • We Can! - We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity & Nutrition) is a national movement designed to give parents, caregivers, and entire communities a way to help children 8 to 13 years old stay at a healthy weight.
  • Let’s Move! - Let's Move! has an ambitious but important goal: to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. Let’s Move will give parents the support they need, provide healthier food in schools, help our kids to be more physically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of our country.
  • Play60 - The NFL PLAY 60 campaign is designed to tackle childhood obesity by getting kids active through in-school, afterschool and team-based programs, online child-targeted outreach on NFLRUSH.com, and many partnerships with like-minded organizations.

Learn more about heart health

Blood thinners. Used to prevent clots from forming in the blood, blood thinners are often prescribed for patients who have a history of stroke, mechanical heart valves, or a heart condition called atrial fibrillation.

Cholesterol. High levels of bad cholesterol can significantly increase the risk of coronary events, such as heart attack and stroke.