February 2019 marks the 55th anniversary of American Heart Month. Originally established by President Lyndon B. Johnson in December 1963, it marked a turning point in our collective approach to addressing cardiovascular disease.
The prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease has come a long way since the early 1960’s, but much work remains. While annual deaths from cardiovascular disease have declined, heart disease continues to be a leading cause of death for both men and women. It now accounts for one in three deaths in the United States every year and many of these are preventable.
Cardiovascular disease, heart disease, coronary heart disease – these terms are often used interchangeably. So what’s the difference and how do these conditions differ? ‘Cardiovascular disease’ is the umbrella term for all types of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, stroke, congenital heart defects and peripheral artery disease. ‘Heart disease’ is a catch-all phrase for a variety of conditions that affect the heart’s structure and function. ‘Coronary heart disease’ is a type of heart disease that occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries.
American Heart Month reminds us of the cardiac core lab industry’s critical work optimizing new drug development. It’s also an opportunity to re-commit ourselves to a heart healthy lifestyle. Here are a few suggestions from the National Institutes of Health:
- Move more – get at least 2 ½ hours of physical activity each week. That’s just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition, do muscle strengthening exercises at least 2 days a week.
- Aim for a healthy weight – being overweight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
- Eat healthy foods – low sodium and low saturated fat diets prevent heart disease.
- Quit smoking – the chemicals in tobacco smoke harm blood vessels.
Your heart is an incredible organ! Here are some fun facts you may not know:
- The first heart cell starts to beat as early as 4 weeks.
- Your heart is about the size of your two hands clasped together.
- It beats 100,000 times a day.
- Each minute your heart pumps 1.5 gallons of blood.
- Heart cancer is very rare, because heart cells stop dividing early in life.
- The heart pumps blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels.
Happy American Heart Month everyone!