February Is American Heart Month

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A person’s heart starts to beat just 8 weeks after conception. To think about that muscle working at such a young age and some people living into their 90s or 100s is amazing. What a long life some hearts get to live. So taking care of our hearts to help it live its longest life is important.

February is American Heart Month. That should be easy to remember since it is also the month Valentine’s day falls in (I think someone planned that). Here are a few fun heart facts. Did you know that the animal with the largest heart is the blue whale while the animal with the smallest heart is the fairyfly? A cheetah’s resting heart rate is about 120 beats per minute and can jump up to 250 beats per minute in just a few seconds, compared to humans where it takes a bit longer to reach its limit. The human heart beats about 100,000 times per day, and it is very rare for a person to get heart cancer.

Many people know the signs of heart disease like chest pain or discomfort, pain in the neck or jaw, and pain in the upper abdomen or back. However, women could also experience nausea, vomiting, or fatigue as symptoms of heart disease. There are three main risk factors that increase your chances of developing heart disease and they are; high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. At least half of all Americans have at least one of these three risk factors.

Now what? What can people do to help decrease their risk of heart disease?

Know your numbers, not your phone number but your blood pressure numbers.
Get tested for diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes raises your risk for heart disease. *Quit smoking!
*Have your triglycerides and cholesterol checked.
*Limit your alcohol to just one drink per day.
*Manage stress by finding ways to cope with stress that work for you.
*Make healthy food choices that support heart health, like choosing healthy fats and watching sodium intake.

National Wear Red Day is February 4th to show support and bring awareness to the dangers of heart disease in women. Heart disease claims the lives of 1 in 3 women. That is about every 80 seconds a woman dies from heart disease or stroke. It is important to educate your family and friends and rally together to take charge of your own heart health.

If you are interested in ways to help lower your risk of heart disease, the Extension office is offering the Med instead of Meds program at the end of the month. It is a 6 week course that explores the 7 steps to eating the Med Way. We discuss chronic diseases that are reduced by following the Mediterranean diet, how to read and understand food labels, what it means to eat mindfully, and cook Med recipes to take home and try. The program runs February 23rd through March 30th . It will meet every Wednesday from 10 a.m.-12noon and the cost is only $10.00. If cost is an issue, please reach out as scholarships are available. You can register for this program at Eventbrite.com and search Med instead of Meds.

For more information about heart disease or what nutrition/health programs the Extension has to offer contact the Family and Consumer Science agent, Emily McClure, at ekmcclure@ncat.edu or by calling 828-586-4009. You can also visit heart.org or cdc.gov for more information about heart health. Don’t forget we have a Facebook page “N.C. Cooperative Extension- Jackson County” you can follow to learn about upcoming programs or visit our website at Jackson.ces.ncsu.edu