Heart disease doesn’t happen just to older adults. It’s happening to younger adults more and more often. This is partly because the conditions that lead to heart disease are happening at younger ages. February is Heart Month, the perfect time to learn about your risk for heart disease and the steps you need to take now to help your heart.
Heart disease—and the conditions that lead to it—can happen at any age. High rates of obesity and high blood pressure among younger people (ages 35-64) are putting them at risk for heart disease earlier in life. Half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking).
4 Ways to Take Control of Your Heart Health
Don’t smoke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit.
Manage conditions. Work with your health care team to manage conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This includes taking any medicines you have been prescribed.
Make heart-healthy eating changes. Eat foods low in trans-fat, saturated fat, added sugar and sodium. Try to fill at least half your plate with vegetables and fruits, and aim for low-sodium options.
Stay active. Get moving for at least 150 minutes per week. Break your time into 10-minute blocks if necessary, but get moving.
Heart Attack Warning Signs
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Some signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
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. This feeling often comes along with chest discomfort. But it can also occur without chest discomfort.
Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Heart Attack Signs in Women – As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
Stroke is a medical emergency. Every second counts, because time lost is brain lost! Know these stroke warning signs and share them with others:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
If you or someone you know has one or more of the signs of heart attack or stroke, don’t delay! Call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number immediately so an ambulance – ideally with advanced life support – can come. If you think it’s a stroke, check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared. It’s important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.
Use the letters in “F.A.S.T.” to spot stroke signs and know when to call 9-1-1.
F = Face Drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided?
A = Arm Weakness. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech. Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
T = Time to Call 9-1-1. If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital