This Valentine’s Day, take matters of the heart…to heart.
All poetry and symbolism of the holiday aside, the fact is our hearts are in bad shape. Every hour, a heart attack strikes nearly 200 people in this country. It’s America’s top killer. Its suddenness can render families inconsolable.
This Valentine’s Day, it’s fitting we look more closely – even lovingly – at our hearts and the heart health of those around us. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to the people we love.
First, there is good news to report. Smoking rates have declined substantially. Smoking is the leading cause of heart disease. Fewer smokers means fewer heart attacks and strokes. That’s a wonderful trend we hope we can continue.
The other good news is that four-fifths of all heart disease cases are preventable. That means this battle is winnable.
The bad news comes as no surprise: We’re overweight. You don’t need a doctor to list the ways obesity plagues the human health. But our heart specialists will tell you, obesity can be a one-way ticket to a heart attack, and even death. The numbers are, well, heart breaking:
One in three of us – and one in six of our children – is obese. Heart attacks account for one in every four deaths in this country and more than $100 billion a year in health care costs.
Almost every symptom linked to obesity is a trigger for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
As with excess weight, heart disease does not have to be inevitable. But as smokers showed us, that battle starts at home with you and your families. Here’s what you need to know:
- Learn the signs of heart disease, including chest pains or tightness, pains in the shoulder or arms, and lightheadedness.
- Act immediately. If you detect symptoms, acting immediately will help keep heart attacks from doing more serious damage.
- Early intervention. If you suspect you’re at risk, your doctor can recommend therapy and drugs that could possibly help avoid a heart attack altogether.
- Quit smoking. Smoking can quadruple your chances of heart disease. The single most important action a smoker can take to improve heart health is to quit. If you can’t quit, get help!
- Feed your heart. Add fruits and vegetables to every meal; reduce animal fats as well as sugar and other carbohydrates. A bottle of sweetened soda contains 20 tablespoons of sugar, for example. That’s a heart breaker!
- Lose weight. Your body doesn’t have to be chiseled. Just slight changes in diet and a commitment to daily exercise (even a half-hour walk!) can dramatically improve your heart health.
At Meriter, we’re doing our part. We’ve changed our vision of health care delivery to a more neighborhood-oriented system. You now have more – and easier – access to your doctor. That means immediate attention if heart problems arise. It means your doctor can work more closely with you to help you maintain good health, not just treat you when you’re sick. Meriter launched this vision before it became a national effort.
There’s no mystery to heart disease. We know its primary causes. And we know how to help you avoid heart disease or minimize its damage when it strikes.
But the battle starts at home. So as we celebrate those who love us this Valentine’s Day, let’s make an extra effort to do something truly meaningful for them. Let’s use this holiday to take matters of the heart, to heart!