Did you know that February is National Heart Health Month? As Doctors and Cardiologists in the Bronx, we take any opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers associated with heart disease since it's a problem that particularly affects our community.
This month, we're sharing 8 facts and statistics with you to help you recognize if you are in an at-risk group. We'll also guide you on what to do if you're concerned, and we'll review a few steps you can take today that could reduce your chance of getting heart disease.
1. It's a big problem across the country: 1 in every 4 deaths in America is as a result of heart disease. 1
In the state of New York, heart disease is the number one cause of death. 2
Since it's such a big killer, it's important that we take any condition relating to the heart very seriously. If you suspect that you have a heart condition, always err on the side of caution. Make an appointment with a cardiologist as soon as possible, and you will be taken seriously.
2. It's a leading cause of premature death: 2 in 10 deaths from Coronary Artery Disease occur in adults under 65. 3
While it's true that heart disease is more common in older populations, 4 if you think you're too young to be affected, think again. An article by the American College of Cardiology states that heart attacks increasingly affect young adults under the age of 40, and their chances of survival are the same as those 10+ years older. 5
3. The Bronx is the worst-affected borough in NYC.
It's a problem that particularly affects our neighborhood. A 2017 report by the New York City Health Department revealed that in the Bronx 22% of all deaths from heart disease occur in adults under 65 years of age. The state average is 17%. 6
4. Men are more likely than women to die prematurely from heart disease, but it's still a leading cause of death in women, too.
Among New York City adults, the rate of premature death in men was 2.4 times higher than that in women. 7
However, heart disease is still a leading cause of death for women, too; it's just a matter of age. On average, men have their first heart attack at age 65, women, age 72. 8 Women are also more likely to die, develop heart failure, or have a stroke in the 5 years following a heart attack. 9
People mistakenly believe it to be a condition that primarily affects men. Next week, we'll be looking at how heart disease affects women differently.
5. Death rates from heart disease are highest amongst Black Americans. 10
In the New York City Department of Health report, from 2011-2015 the rate of premature death amongst Black adults was 1.8 times higher than that of White adults, and 2.1 times higher than that of Latino adults, while Asian/Pacific adults had a significantly lower rate of death from heart disease. 11
6. Heart disease is strongly linked with other associated conditions.
You are two times as likely to get heart disease if you have even one of the below risk factors:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Depression 12
It's important to manage these conditions in order to decrease your risk of getting heart disease.
7. Good news: Coronary heart disease deaths are on the decline.
From 2006-2016, the annual death rate linked to coronary heart disease fell by 31.8% 13
Finally, some good news. We now know so much more about the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease. If you are at all concerned by what's been mentioned in this article, know that your cardiologist in the Bronx is far better equipped with tools, skills, and knowledge to help you from becoming another statistic. Decreased cigarette smoking is also thought to have contributed to this decline.14 Which brings us on to our next point...
8. More good news: 80% of cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke) is preventable. 15
You can start making changes to your lifestyle today to reduce your likelihood of getting heart disease. The below information is based on advice from the American Heart Association. 16
Eat more plant-based foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. Eat only lean meat and protein.
Work to cut out dairy products, processed meats, and sugary drinks as much as possible.
Saturated fats are found in coconut and palm oil and in all animal-derived products such as butter, milk, lard, and fatty meat. These fats are a source of bad (LDL) cholesterol. Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats such as olive oil when cooking.
If you're overweight, make sure you're also keeping an eye on your portion sizes.
Reduce your salt intake
Salty foods play havoc with your blood pressure. Cook from scratch as much as possible to control how much salt is in your diet. A lot of processed, prepackaged food is loaded with salt and saturated fats, and we don't even realize it.
Moving is great for controlling your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, stress levels, and your weight.
The best way to start getting active is to choose something you enjoy, that's not too difficult, and that you can do regularly, and turn it into a habit. Walking is a great option as it's something you can easily incorporate into your daily routine.
If you are overweight, any amount of weight loss will help with your blood pressure and prevent, delay, or manage diabetes. If you're struggling to lose weight or maintain weight loss, get in touch with a health care provider. Doctors in Primary Care in the Bronx will be able to advise you.
Whether you're smoking, chewing or even vaping, the nicotine causes your blood pressure to spike. Smoking also lowers your levels of good (HDL) cholesterol and may make it harder to manage prediabetes or diabetes.
Get your zzz's in
Though we lead very busy lives, sleep is something we need to prioritize. Bad-quality sleep for less than 6 hours is linked to high blood pressure.
Take medicine as prescribed
Even if you're making these positive changes in your life, it's important to keep taking any medicine unless otherwise told by your doctor.
If you have any concerns about your heart health or are in need of specific advice relating to a condition you already have, get in touch with us and we can arrange an appointment with either a primary care doctor or a cardiologist in our Bronx clinics.
If you are concerned you may have had a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
3 CDC, "Heart Disease Facts" (2019).
7 NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "Premature Heart Disease and Stroke Deaths among Adults in New York City" (2017).
10 Thomas, J. Heart Disease: Facts, Statistics, and You" (2019)
11 NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "Premature Heart Disease and Stroke Deaths among Adults in New York City" (2017)
12 Thomas, J. Heart Disease: Facts, Statistics, and You" (2019)
14 Mensah, George A et al. "Decline in Cardiovascular Mortality: Possible Causes and Implications." Circulation research vol. 120,2 (2017): 366-380. doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.116.309115