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Each year, more than 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack or stroke. More than 800,000 of them die.
The good news is that many heart attacks and strokes can be prevented. The right lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk.
That’s why DHHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are leading the Million Hearts® national initiative. Federal, state and local agencies and private-sector partners also provide support for the campaign.
Million Hearts encourages Americans to make lifestyle choices that could decrease their chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke:
High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke and has been linked to dementia, according to the CDC.
Nearly half of American adults have hypertension, higher blood pressure than normal. And you know what? About 75 percent of adults with high blood pressure do not have their condition under control.
You should have your physician check you and your loved ones regularly for this often undiagnosed and untreated disease.
A heart attack happens when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. Clots that cut off blood flow completely can cause part of the heart muscle to die. If you’ve had a heart attack, it is critical that you make some changes in the lifestyle that led to the condition.
A stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain — not the heart — is blocked by a clot. In this case, the lack of blood and oxygen may kill brain cells. If this happens, depending on how long oxygen and blood were blocked, a person may have permanent brain damage. This can lead to long-term disabilities, like not being able to walk or talk. Strokes can also be fatal.
The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to heart attacks.
Some heart attacks may happen suddenly, with intense pain. In these cases, no one questions what's happening.
But many heart attacks start slowly with only mild pain or discomfort. Sometimes people aren't sure what's wrong, and they may wait too long before getting help. That can increase the damage to the heart muscle.
Know the major symptoms of a heart attack:
Heart attacks in women can appear much different than in men. For women, any symptoms from the waist upward, front or back of the body, including dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, vomiting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue can indicate a heart attack.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015
To protect yourself, stay smart about your heart:
If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 right away.
And if you haven’t had regular heart screenings with your doctor, start today. As a Blue Cross and Blue Shield member, many of your preventive care screenings are covered at 100 percent as part of your benefits.*
Need help getting started making heart-healthy lifestyle changes? Check out these resources:
Do you know that cold weather can decrease the supply of blood to your heart muscle? When your heart is forced to work harder, like when you’re active, your heart may need more oxygen-rich blood.
When you have a reduced supply of oxygen to the heart along with more demand for oxygen, your heart may not be able to adjust for these requirements, which could result in a heart attack.
February is American Heart Month and a great time to pay attention to your heart health.
Originally published 1/13/2020, Revised 2021, 2022
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