Each February we celebrate American Heart Health Month. When you think of Valentine’s Day, you think about love and flowers and hearts. This month, we’d like you to think about the hearts beating in each one of us. Think about taking the time and effort to help keep each heart beating, keeping it healthy. We can adjust our diet, cut down on stress, add some heart-healthy exercise, get regular check-ups, and a plethora of other steps toward getting and keeping your heart in a good place.
These are steps we all can do to cut down the risk of heart disease. Although this information is readily available and widespread, there is still a large section of society which, no matter how hard they try, may still suffer the effects of heart disease.
Heart disease doesn’t just happen to those in the high-risk category. There can be many subtle conditions which will lead to issues such as stroke, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Heart attacks and stroke are usually caused by circumstances over which we do have some power to control, but SCA can strike anyone, at any time, anywhere.
SCA can be caused by issues such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which is the result of a thickening of the heart walls which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. HCM can often be missed in regular physical exams, and those who suffer from it often have no recognizable symptoms.
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome affects people when an extra electrical pathway runs between the upper and lower chambers of the heart. This additional pathway can cause a feedback effect which leads to a rapid heartbeat and can end with a fibrillating heart. Brugada and Long Q-T syndromes are also examples of electrical problems in the heart.
Heart attacks, although usually attributable to clogged arteries, can also lead to sudden cardiac arrest if untreated. Physical stress, dehydration, consumption of caffeine products, previous heart issues, illicit drugs, and congenital defects can also cause or contribute to SCA.
SCA, while often thought of as having no warning signs, can actually show indications as much as a month before the actual event. Atypical fatigue, fainting, dizziness, chest discomfort, unusual shortness of breath, or rapid or irregular heartbeat are all good reasons to see a medical specialist as soon as possible.
To recognize the importance of understanding and dealing with SCA and other heart issues, February has been designated American Heart Month, sponsored by the American Heart Association. It is their hope to spread the word about heart disease and prevention. You can visit their website for ideas and help for your own Heart Month promotions.
Use this February to make the changes necessary in your life, or help others with theirs, to work towards having a healthy heart and a long life.