February is a time when most of us think of hearts, and bows and arrows to celebrate Valentine’s Day. February is also American Heart Month, and it’s the perfect time to evaluate our heart health, so we can share our love with the world. Focusing on your heart health has never been more important. People with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, causing about 1 in 4 deaths. The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions that can lead to a heart attack or heart failure. Key risk factors for heart disease may not surprise you:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Being Overweight
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Stress

Sometimes heart disease may be “silent” and not diagnosed until you have other symptoms or emergencies, including heart attack, heart palpitations or heart failure.

The major symptoms of a heart attack are:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint. You may also break out into a cold sweat.
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders.
  • Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort, but shortness of breath also can happen before chest discomfort.

Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely to have these other symptoms. Learn more about women and heart disease.

How can I reduce my risk of heart disease?

To lower your chances of getting heart disease, it’s important to do the following:

  • Know your blood pressure. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. 
  • Talk to your doctor about whether you should be tested for diabetes. 
  • Quit smoking. 
  • Discuss checking your blood cholesterol and triglycerides with your doctor. Learn more about cholesterol.
  • Make healthy food choices.
  • Being overweight or obesity raises your risk of heart disease. 
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink.
  • Manage stress levels by finding healthy ways to cope with stress. 

In order to implement these changes, now it’s easier to monitor your vitals at home. There are several devices and practices available that can help you keep a better eye on your heart health:

  • Heart rate monitors can track your heartbeat when you’re resting and active. 
  • Apple Watch or FitBit are great fitness trackers.
  • A variety of apps like MyPlate, Calorie Counter and Diary or My Fitness Pal can monitor your diet and exercise habits.  
  • Many mattress companies now sell mattresses that help improve sleep quality by offering advanced sleep cycle analysis (deep, light & REM), heart rate tracking, and snore detection.
  • Blood pressure cuff

For a more detailed list, read this article. 

Using the resources above can help you adopt a healthy lifestyle to prevent heart disease. It’s also a good indicator when things are off. Texas Emergency Care Center’s doors are open 24/7/365 if you or a loved one are experiencing chest pain, hypertension or any other symptoms contributing to heart disease.