February is National Heart Disease Awareness Month, commonly referred to as American Heart Month. It’s the perfect time to learn about your risk for heart disease and the steps you need to take now to help your heart. 

Cardiovascular disease — including heart disease, atherosclerosis, stroke and high blood pressure — is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Heart disease does not discriminate against race, age, gender, ethnicity or social class. The American Heart Association reports cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the leading global cause of death with more than 17.9 million deaths each year and this number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by the year 2030. Chances are high that we all know someone that is affected by cardiovascular disease. 

There are several risk factors for heart disease, some are preventable and others are not. The following are risk factors and habits that increase the chances of developing heart disease: high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, unhealthy eating, no exercise and excessive alcohol consumption.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports uncontrolled high blood pressure as a primary risk factor of heart disease and stroke. In fact, the CDC reports 75 million American adults (one in every three adults) have high blood pressure. The American Heart Association states normal blood pressure should be less than 120/80. Be mindful that high blood pressure will not always present itself with symptoms, such as headache, blurred vision, shortness of breath, etc. Therefore, it is important to have your blood pressure checked and monitored by a health care professional regularly. 

Obesity along with pre-high blood pressure and high blood pressure are on the rise among children and young adults today. According to an article published by the US National Institutes of Health by Stephen R. Daniels, Charlotte A. Pratt and Laura L. Hayman, “obesity in childhood and adolescence is associated with numerous adverse health outcomes. Cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea and abnormal lipid profiles (e.g., high triglycerides, low HDL) are higher in obesity than in normal weight youth. Obesity in childhood and adolescence substantially increases the risk of adult obesity. Obesity in childhood has been associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease in adult life.”

Coordinated School Health, along with the American Heart Association, want all individuals to know and be familiar with the warning signs of a heart attack. The following are warning signs of a heart attack:

• hest discomfort — Most heart attacks involve chest discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort may feel like uncomfortable pressure (often described as it feels like an elephant sitting on your chest), squeezing or fullness pain.

• hortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

• ncreased fatigue that may or may not be accompanied with cold sweats, nausea or lightheadedness. If you or someone you are with has any of the signs or symptoms above, call 911 immediately to get to a hospital to be evaluated because it could possibly save a life. 

Coordinated School Health, along with the American Heart Association, wants all individuals to know and be familiar with the warning signs of a stroke. The following are warning signs of a stroke:

• ace drooping — Assess for facial drooping and/or numbness by asking the person to smile and check to make sure one side of the smile is not drooping.

• rm weakness — Assess for arm weakness and/or numbness by asking the person to raise both arms while checking to see if one arm drifts downward.

• peech difficulty — Assess for any slurred speech or confusion by asking the person to repeat a short sentence, such as “the sky is blue.”

• ime to call 911 if the person shows any of the above symptoms. Even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get to the hospital immediately to be evaluated.

When it comes to stroke, remember to think FAST (facial droop, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time), it could possibly save a life.

For all your heart does for you, return the favor by treating your heart with love and appreciation by quitting smoking, minimizing stress, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, exercising, getting adequate sleep and keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in check. For questions or comments please contact your child’s school nurse or call 644-3916.


KAYLA GLOVER is a registered nurse, the Henry County School System’s family and community coordinator, and nurse at Lakewood School. Her email address is gloverk@ henryk12.net.

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