American Heart Month
The month of February is not just the month of Valentine’s Day and heart shaped boxes of candy that we give to our loved ones. February has also been known as American Heart Month since the first celebration in 1964!
American Heart Month was first designated by Presidential Proclamation 3566, enacted by President Lyndon B. Johnson in December 1963. It is interesting to note that this event occurred on the 9th anniversary of President Johnson’s heart attack. In his remarks announcing the first American Heart Month, President Johnson asked “the people of the United States to give heed to the nationwide problem of the heart and blood-vessel diseases, and to support the programs required to bring about its solution.” This proclamation was an important event in our nation’s approach to addressing cardiovascular disease.
Much has happened since this event in 1963. Today, many governmental, public and private organizations recognize this month by remembering all the advancements that have been made. There has been much progress made in the treatment of congenital heart disease, primarily in the pediatric population but also expanding into adults as well. The new technology has focused on minimizing the number of operations a person with congenital heart disease might need. Molecular and cell-based therapies, and ventricular assist devices have improved quality of life and serve as a bridge to a heart transplant. There have also been advancements in pharmaceuticals that can cut cholesterol levels in half. Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) is a technique that has been developed to correct a narrowed aortic valve without open-heart surgery. Weight loss surgery has provided cardiovascular benefits, and the use of continuous positive airway pressure devices for sleep apnea have also proven cardiovascular benefits.
The statistics and study of the prevalence of heart disease highlight the fact that heart disease causes approximately 2,200 deaths in our country each day. That is one every 40 seconds and more that all types of cancer combined. While science is advancing medicine and treatments in many ways, unhealthy lifestyles and the rising epidemic of obesity in both adults and children have slowed the progress of minimizing cardiovascular disease. Some publications estimate that 80% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented by following simple healthy practices in our lifestyle including maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, participating in physical activity, and emphasizing the importance of a nutritional and healthy diet.
There are an abundance of fact sheets and instructional materials developed by organizations like The American Heart Association during American Heart Month each February. The CDC has this informative web page about High Blood Pressure in Kids and Teens, and The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute also published 25 Ways to Take Part in Heart Month to help make it easy to get involved this year! These organizations are bringing important attention to the continued need of awareness, education, and continued improvements in cardiovascular research. Use this month to remind yourself and your loved ones of the importance of heart health!