Heart Health Graphic

What has four chambers, is about the size of a fist and can mean the difference between life and death? It’s the heart, a vital organ that beats about 100,000 times a day pumping life sustaining blood throughout the body. The human heart is always on duty, pumping 24/7 as long as a person is alive.

Each February is Heart Health Month, a time dedicated to remind individuals about its proper care and maintenance in order to help keep it beating strong.

“Each year, we observe Heart Health Month to help raise awareness of cardiovascular disease. It includes heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. It’s the number one cause of death among men and women in the United States, but it is also preventable through healthful lifestyle choices practiced year round,” said Col. Patrick T. Birchfield, BACH commander.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports heart disease can happen at any age in the United States and it’s happening to younger adults more and more often. One of the most common forms is coronary artery disease. It’s caused by a build-up of plaque deposits of cholesterol and other substances in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and other parts of the body. Over time, built-up plaque can cause the arteries to narrow limiting the flow of blood that delivers oxygen and essential nutrients to cells and removes waste. This may lead to a heart attack or heart failure because the heart can’t pump blood the way it should.

Risk factors for heart disease and stroke include, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high glucose levels; smoking; being overweight or obese; physical inactivity and a poor diet. Regular physical exams allow health care providers to monitor their patients’ health. Individuals can reduce their risk of heart disease through healthful lifestyle choices.

The CDC shared the following four steps individuals can take to help their heart stay healthy.

•Don’t smoke – Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, speak with your health care provider about kicking the habit.

•Make Heart-Healthy Eating Choices – Healthful choices include eating fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Eating a lot of foods high in saturated fat and trans fat, like beef, bacon, processed meat, fast food, cheese, ice cream, fried foods and baked goods may contribute to heart disease. Eating foods high in fiber and low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, like whole grains, poultry, fish and low fat dairy can help prevent high cholesterol that contributes to coronary artery disease.

•Manage Conditions – Keeping a healthy body weight can help reduce the risk of heart disease. People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for heart disease and may put extra stress on their heart and blood vessels, Work with your healthcare team to manage conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

•Stay Active – Regular physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight and lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes per week. Individuals who have been inactive for some time should consult with their doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

Additionally, beneficiaries who receive care at BACH should have a physical exam each year, even if they feel fine. Regular physical exams allow health care providers to monitor a patient’s wellness and, among other things, check blood pressure, heart rate and review lab work that includes cholesterol and glucose levels which helps to measure heart health.

If it has been more than 12 months since your last medical exam book an appointment through www.tricareonline.com or through the hospital’s appointment line at 270-798-HOSP (4677) or 931-431-HOSP (4677) during normal business hours 6 a.m-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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