Every year in February, Kettering Health Network pauses to recognize American Heart Month. Take the time this month to make some heart-healthy changes for your whole family and beat back heart disease.
Keep your kids on a heart-healthy path
It’s never too early to start establishing heart-healthy habits for your children. While children rarely get heart disease, the process leading to adult heart disease—the gradual buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances in the arteries—can begin in childhood. This can put kids at future risk for a heart attack, or even a stroke, when they grow up. The chances of this happening increase when kids develop heart disease risk factors such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.
“The fastest growing age group for diabetes is children aged 13-18,” says Harvey Hahn, MD, cardiologist with Kettering Health Network Heart & Vascular. “It’s important for parents to instill healthy habits early in their children with a foundation of healthy diet and exercise. Make sure half your plate is fruits and veggies and plant-based whole foods rather than processed or junk foods. Additionally, kids need to physically play. Play and exercise should be prioritized over screen time.”
Kids who are six years and older need 60 minutes of daily activity. Make being active a family activity. Go on walks or bike rides; play sports together; or engage in games together. Additionally, it’s important to make sure your children are getting regular check-ups. Along with assessing overall health, a doctor can check a child’s weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Early screenings are even more important for women
While many people are aware of the risk of heart disease in men, they often don’t realize that heart disease poses just as big of a threat to women. In fact, heart disease is the most common cause of death in both women and men in the United States.
One of the ways we can all help change this statistic is to become more educated on the value of heart screenings. Often, women are unaware that heart screenings play a vital role in their heart disease prevention. Women tend to have different, more subtle signs of heart disease than men. This means that, if a woman is forgoing heart screenings, her heart disease often won’t be detected until later stages, when it’s much harder to treat.
But I have a primary care provider—am I still at risk?
Most women have a relationship with their primary care provider or OB-GYN that allows them to ask questions about their ongoing health and lifestyle. But if a woman shows no early warning signs of heart disease, heart screenings are not a routine part of these primary care exams.
“With the heart screenings Kettering Health Network offers, we can provide earlier detection for women who are not having symptoms,” says Barb Emrick, MS, PHCNS-BC, CCP, manager of the Center for Heart and Vascular Health at Kettering Health Network. “We make testing available and accessible for people who want to be proactive about their cardiovascular risk.”
How do I know my risk level?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of all Americans have at least one of three key risk factors for heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your health care provider about which heart screenings may be most appropriate. Some additional risk factors include:
- Family history of heart disease
- Eating a diet high in processed foods
- Eating a high-sodium diet
- Physical inactivity
- A history of high blood pressure while pregnant
- Certain autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
Never ignore discomfort
“The symptoms of heart disease in women tend to be atypical. A woman might experience a dull pain, shortness of breath, or unusual fatigue. Because symptoms are often less noticeable in women, many women don’t report to the emergency room right away,” says Barb.
But delay in treatment leads to worse outcomes. “Women should never ignore any kind of discomfort from the waist up,” says Barb. “And by providing accessible, routine heart screenings, we can provide early intervention.”
Learn more about heart health for the whole family at Kettering Health Network’s signature heart month event, A to Zumba, on February 12, 5:30-8 p.m. at Kettering Recreation Complex. Register today at ketteringhealth.org/atozumba