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Why is Heart Health Still Ignored?

When you look at the leading causes of death in America, heart issues always rank near the top. But if you ask a random sampling of Americans to tell you what they’re doing to protect their hearts, you’ll get some pretty weak and uneducated answers.

The State of Heart Health in America

“Your cardiovascular system is a network of blood vessels working in conjunction with your heart to move blood through your body,” MacNeal Hospital explains. “Your blood carries important nutrients to your muscles, bones and tissues, which is why blockages and other cardiovascular issues are so dangerous to your health.”

Seems like pretty basic information, right? Well, you may be surprised to learn that Americans aren’t very educated on the topic of heart health. In fact, most people don’t even want to talk about it.

“Some folks are totally motivated and they’re all over it: watching their diet, on their exercise program, mindful of their blood pressures and [blood] sugar,” cardiologist Dr. Vincent Bufalino says. “Then there's the folks that, you know what, no matter what we say, we can never quite move them on behavior.”

Dr. Bufalino points to research that backs his firsthand experiences. The data shows that of people in the high-risk category – meaning those with five or more risk factors – almost 1 in 5 patients don’t feel like they need to make any changes. It’s rather astonishing, to say the least. And something needs to be done.

How to Make Heart Health a Bigger Priority

While it’s ultimately up to the receptivity of each individual, there are some practical steps that those within the healthcare community can do to ensure patients have the information and education they need to practice heart-healthy habits. Here are some ideas:

1. Emphasize the Ten Commandments

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are “ten commandments” that people should follow for a healthy heart. They are as follows:

  • Know the risk factors you face for heart disease.

  • Speak with your doctor about ways to lower these risks.

  • Regularly check your blood pressure.

  • Know your cholesterol numbers (including differences between good and bad).

  • Have blood sugar level checked for diabetes.

  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco products.

  • Maintain a healthy diet and eat foods that are good for the heart.

  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week.

  • Set a healthy weight goal and strive to reach and maintain it.

  • Know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and call 9-1-1 right away.

The more doctors and practitioners emphasize the ten commandments of heart health, the greater awareness there will be.

2. Encourage Women to Get Screened

“Heart disease strikes women 7-10 years later than men but it is still a leading cause of death. However, the risk of heart disease is often underestimated in women because of the misconception that they are somehow protected from it,” HealthManagement.org notes.

Women need to be encouraged to get regular heart screenings. It’s also important to stop stigmatizing women and telling them that losing weight will solve all of their problems. Obesity is a risk factor, but it’s just one risk factor. Regular health checks are needed to investigate other factors.

3. Educate Type 2 Diabetes Patients

Type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease, which is one of the most common causes of death in people with diabetes. By 2050, it’s estimated that one-third of all Americans will have type 2 diabetes. Thus, it’s extremely important that we begin educating people today about the risks they could face tomorrow.

Patients with type 2 diabetes must take extra care to follow healthy lifestyle guidelines – including diet, exercise, and strict adherence to the proper use of medication.

Care for Your Heart

It doesn’t matter if you’re relatively healthy or have an underlying condition that makes you more susceptible to heart disease, you have to make heart health a bigger priority in your life. By making healthy lifestyle choices and seeing your doctor on a regular basis, you can reduce your risk and give yourself a better chance of enjoying a long, healthy life.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

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