February marks the observance of American Heart Month, a nationwide initiative aimed at raising public awareness about cardiovascular health.

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As part of American Heart Month, Chenango County Public Health is urging New Yorkers to take proactive steps to improve their heart health and well-being.

Understanding Heart Disease and Key Risk Factors

Heart disease encompasses several cardiovascular conditions, with the most prevalent being coronary artery disease (CAD). This condition impacts the blood flow to the heart, potentially leading to a heart attack. Numerous factors contribute to the risk of heart disease, including certain health conditions, lifestyle choices, age, and family history. Surprisingly, nearly half of all Americans (47%) possess at least one of the three primary risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.

Additionally, various medical conditions and lifestyle factors can further elevate the risk of heart disease. These include diabetes, obesity, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol consumption. It is essential to remember that heart disease affects both men and women, constituting the leading cause of death among both genders. Although heart disease can develop at any age, the risk tends to amplify as individuals grow older.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Heart Disease

Being aware of the symptoms associated with heart disease is vital for early detection and prompt medical intervention. Different types of heart conditions present varying symptoms:

Signs of Having a Heart Attack

Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

Signs of Arrhythmia

Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).

Signs of Heart Failure

Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.

Prevention: Taking Heart-Healthy Measures

Maintaining optimal heart health allows individuals to pursue the activities they love and live fulfilling lives. While making healthy changes can be challenging, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposes the "Heart-Healthy Steps" campaign, which encourages adults to start with small, manageable actions:

Manage Risk Factors

Ensure that blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels are within a healthy range through lifestyle modifications, medication, or a combination of both.

Schedule a Medical Appointment

Regular check-ups enable healthcare professionals to monitor and assess cardiovascular health, providing guidance in maintaining or improving it.

Increase Physical Activity

Begin incorporating small steps to be more active, such as taking daily walks, engaging in physical hobbies, or participating in exercise classes.

Adopt a Healthy Diet

Make incremental changes to eating habits, focusing on consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products.

Manage Stress Effectively

Find healthy coping mechanisms to handle stress, such as engaging in relaxation techniques, mindfulness exercises, or seeking support from loved ones.

Additional Information and Support

Anyone looking for more information on heart health is invited to contact the Chenango County Health Department at (607) 337-1660.

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