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February is American Heart Month

Did you know February is American Heart Month? Earlier this month I attended a fabulous GoRed event at Morgan Stanley in Westchester, to celebrate, with guest speaker Mara Schiavocampo. Raising awareness of heart disease and it’s prevention remains a vital public health mission.

America’s biggest killer

Cardiovascular disease which includes heart disease and stroke leads to 33.6% of all US deaths and this just the tip of the iceberg: nearly 4 million people suffer from cardiovascular disease and report disability from illness. The CDC estimates that approximately 200,000 of these 700,000 deaths are due to lifestyle choices and are therefore preventable. In 2010, the estimated total spending on cardiovascular diseases in the United States was estimated to be $444 billion: that’s about $1 of every $6 spent on health care in the USA.

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Prevention is key

While some people have an increased genetic risk of cardiovascular disease, for most people lifestyle choices play a large role in personal risk. Cardiovascular disease severely affects your ability to live a happy, fulfilling, successful life and it is essential that we all take some personal responsibility for reducing our risk.

5 things you can do to significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease

  1. Don’t smoke: Cigarette smoking increases your risk of coronary heart disease it also increases blood pressure, reduces exercise tolerance and increases blood clotting.

  2. Exercise regularly: Studies show that doing more than 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate physical activity or an hour of vigorous physical activity every week will reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by about 30%.  

  3. Watch your weight: carrying more than a few extra pounds increases your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) all of which put you at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

  4. Manage your stress: it is hard to accurately estimate the effect of stress on cardiovascular disease, as the effects of stress are complex. But we do know that stress increases your blood pressure and cholesterol, speeds up aging and death of cells, makes weight gain more likely and increases frequency of bad habits such as smoking, overeating, inactivity and excessive alcohol consumption, all of which are bad for your cardiovascular health.

  5. Get good advice on managing your health. There are many symptoms and signs of impending cardiovascular disease including: hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia, high blood sugar and excess belly fat. In combination these risk factors are now known as Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X. These should not be ignored, as if treated early serious illness can be limited or prevented. Seek out advice from a holistic practitioner, as there is increasing evidence that inflammation and sugar addiction are implicated in these.

Employers have a responsibility too

If you are an employer, you should know that the health of your business is integrally tied to the health of your employees. As cardiovascular disease is a major cause of chronic ill health, it is also a major cause of absenteeism, poor productivity and health care costs. Large corporations are beginning to invest in Corporate Wellbeing Programs for their employees, and these have been shown to have an impressive return on investment and reduce the impact of chronic illness. Small to medium sized businesses need to do the same.

Your heart, Your life!

Your heart health is essential to the health of your body, brain, mind and spirit. Having a healthy heart and brain increases your energy levels, your focus, productivity and your relationships. It really is win-win all around.

Sources: CDC and

Dr Leonaura Rhodes