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February is the month of candy hearts, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and teddy bears holding (you guessed it) stuffed hearts. It’s a time to toast to those who make our heart beat faster, but it’s also an opportunity to honor that beating heart itself.

That’s because February is also American Heart Month—both a celebration and reminder just how important a healthy heart is for a long, fulfilling life. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and 1 in 4 people will die of heart disease every year. Roughly 735,000 Americans experience a heart attack every year.

While it’s fantastic to celebrate Valentine’s Day (and Galentine’s Day!), don’t forget to make time to celebrate your heart this month. Focus on showing yourself some love by making a commitment to honor your health.

Below, we’ve outlined four ideas to celebrate American Heart Month, as well as just some of the ways our team at Elitra Health Center can help you plan the party.

Learn about the symptoms of a heart attack

In the midst of a heart attack, too many people do not seek help simply because they do not understand what they are experiencing.

In a 2005 survey, 92 percent of respondents identified chest pain as a symptom, but only 27 percent could correctly identify all of the major symptoms and know to call 9-1-1 in the event of a heart attack.

This dearth in awareness is even more concerning given that almost half of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside of a hospital setting.

Additionally, although heart attack symptoms vary between men and women, most people are only familiar with the symptoms that typically affect men.

Heart Attack

According to the CDC, the major warning signs of a heart attack for men include:

  • Chest pain, intense pressure and squeezing fullness in the center or left side of the chest that spans a couple minutes and can reoccur
  • Upper body pain, particularly your arms and left shoulder
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness and faintness
  • Cold sweats

The major warning signs for women include:

  • Fatigue lasting multiple days or coming on suddenly severe
  • Upper back, shoulder, throat and jaw pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Indigestion pain
  • Anxiety
  • Pressure or pain in the center of your chest, which may spread to your arm

A heart attack will cause death for about 15 percent of its victims, and you should immediately call 9-1-1 if you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms.

Participate in a organized heart health walk

If you’re looking for motivation to get moving, want to meet other heart disease survivors and also do a bit of good for the world, sign up for a Heart Walk this February.

Hosted by the American Heart Association (AHA), Heart Walks raise money to fight heart disease and stroke. You can create a team of friends and family to fundraise and walk together.

You can use the event as a launching pad for a neighborhood walking club and use these resources from the AHA to set up and host your club. Committing to thirty minutes of a moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as walking, at least five days per week is recommended by the AHA to improve your overall cardiovascular health.

According to Harvard Medical, researchers have found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent in both men and women who walked as little as 5½ miles per week at 2 miles per hour. In addition to promoting weight loss and muscle growth, walking also improves risk factors such as vascular stiffness, inflammation and mental stress.

If finding time to walk multiple times a week isn’t doable for you, our exercise physiologist can develop a low-impact workout plan that fits into even your craziest weeks. Whether you can spare an hour or just five minutes, we’ll demonstrate exercises that are great for your heart (and that you’ll actually do once you get home).

Get a comprehensive physical

Our multidisciplinary team of specialists have over thirty years of experience in executive exams, and you can trust that your care will be prioritized completely when you are with us.

Our physical is designed to offer the world’s most comprehensive health assessment.

We’ll take you through a complete cardio-pulmonary evaluation—including a resting electrocardiogram, stress treadmill electrocardiogram and a non-invasive heart and lung CT scan. You’ll also undergo a coronary risk and lipid panel, a vascular ultrasound screening and a spirometry pulmonary function test.

We will also investigate you family history of heart disease, including taking you through advanced genome testing to help understand future risks for you and your children.

You’ll receive all of your screening and test results that day during your physician consultation, where we will determine and coordinate required follow ups with specialists and discuss and review proposed personal wellness plan.

Host a potluck focused on heart-healthy recipes

Grilled Vegetables

February is home to Super Bowl parties and their gut-busting spreads of fried, fatty foods—which is fine! You’re allowed to enjoy yourself as long as you practice moderation. We’re rooting for the dip tray this year, and we’re also suggesting you start a new February tradition: a heart-healthy potluck.

Gather your loved ones around recipes that will help—not hurt—your heart, like salmon cucumber bites and stuffed red peppers. You’ll help spread heart health awareness among your friends and family, and you’ll learn new recipes, too. You can deepen the impact of the event by setting future health goals together and promising to keep one another accountable.

If you feel stressed out about the idea of healthy food prep and don’t know where to begin, you’d benefit from an in-depth consultation with our registered nutritionist.

They’ll assess your current diet and offer food and supplement recommendations, as well as offer meal and snack solutions that are great for your heart. We’ll teach you health and wellness education to make you sure you know these foods are heart healthy and what foods you should avoid based off of your test results.

Because, from food choices to preemptive screening, our team at Elitra Health Center is committed to making sure your journey to a healthier heart lasts long past February.

 

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