Embrace a Healthy Heart: Prevent Heart Attacks and Strokes

Embrace a Healthy Heart: Prevent Heart Attacks and Strokes

Embrace a Healthy Heart: Prevent Heart Attacks and Strokes

Heart disease and stroke are the first and fifth leading causes of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Each year, more than 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack or stroke. More than 800,000 of them die. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that heart disease and stroke cost the U.S. economy almost $1 billion  every day in medical costs and lost productivity.

Heart Disease and Stroke Are Often Preventable

The good news is that many heart attacks and strokes can be prevented. The right lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk.

That’s why DHHS, the CDC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are leading the Million Hearts® national initiative. Federal, state and local agencies and private-sector partners also provide support for the campaign.

Million Hearts encourages Americans to make lifestyle choices that could decrease their chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke:

  • Use aspirin when appropriate
  • Control blood pressure
  • Manage high cholesterol
  • Stop smoking
  • Lower sodium consumption
  • Lower trans fat consumption
The Role of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke and has been linked to dementia, according to the CDC.

Nearly 1 in 3 American adults has prehypertension, higher blood pressure than normal. And you know what? About half of adults with high blood pressure do not have their condition under control.

You should have your physician check you and your loved ones regularly for this often undiagnosed and untreated disease.

What Exactly Happens During a Heart Attack or Stroke?

A heart attack happens when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. Clots that cut off blood flow completely can cause part of the heart muscle to die. If you’ve had a heart attack, it is critical that you make some changes in the lifestyle that led to the condition.

A stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain — not the heart — is blocked by a clot. In this case, the lack of blood and oxygen may kill brain cells. If this happens, depending on how long oxygen and blood were blocked, a person may no longer be able to walk or talk.

What Are the Signs of a Heart Attack?

The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to heart attacks.

Some heart attacks may happen suddenly, with intense pain. In these cases, no one questions what's happening.

But many heart attacks start slowly with only mild pain or discomfort. Sometimes people aren't sure what's wrong, and they may wait too long before getting help.

Know the major symptoms of a heart attack: 

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, stomach or back
  • Feeling weak, dizzy, light-headed or faint
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea (an additional symptom in women)
  • Fatigue

Heart attacks in women can appear much different than in men. For women, any symptoms from the waist upward, front or back of the body, including dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting,  upper back pressure or extreme fatigue can indicate a heart attack.

CDC Heart Attack Signs

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015

What Can You Do?

To protect yourself, stay smart about your heart:

  • Know the signs of a heart attack.
  • Keep your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range.
  • Talk to your doctor about your numbers and ask if medication is needed.
  • Exercise most days of the week.
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco.
  • Limit alcohol use.

If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 right away.

And if you haven’t had regular heart screenings with your doctor, start today. As a Blue Cross and Blue Shield member, your preventive care heart screenings are covered at 100 percent as part of your benefits.*

Need help getting started making heart-healthy lifestyle changes? Check out these resources:

Cold Weather Can Create a Perfect Storm for Your Heart

Do you know that cold weather can decrease the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle? When your heart is forced to work harder, like when you’re active, your heart may need more oxygen-rich blood.

When you have a reduced supply of oxygen to the heart along with more demand for oxygen, your heart may not be able to adjust for these requirements, which could result in a heart attack.

February is American Heart Month and a great time to pay attention to your heart health.

*Preventive services at no cost applies only to members enrolled in non-grandfathered health plans. You may have to pay all or part of the cost of preventive care if your health plan is grandfathered. To find out if your plan is grandfathered or non-grandfathered, call the customer service number on your member ID card.
Sources: Costs and Consequences,   Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2019; Heart Disease Facts  CDC, 2017; Stroke Fact Sheet,   CDC, 2017; High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet,   CDC, 2016; What Is Cardiovascular Disease?,   American Heart Association, 2016; Heart Disease and Stroke Cost America Nearly $1 Billion a Day in Medical Costs, Lost Productivity,    CDC Foundation, 2015
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