February is Heart Health Month

Nearly 735,000 heart attacks affect the lives of both the afflicted and their loved ones each year in the United States.
To educate individuals and reduce heart disease related deaths, the Federal Government declared February as National Hearth Health Month in 1964.

In the U.S., heart disease consistently ranks as the leading causes of death among citizens. Yearly, 1-in-4 deaths is caused by heart disease; totaling 610,000 deaths nationally.

The month long heart health awareness campaign encourages individuals to make healthy dietary choices, exercise regularly and cease use of tobacco. As well as being the leading killer of U.S. citizens, heart disease ends the lives of over 17 million people each year globally.

It is vital to recognize the warning signs of a heart attack; chest pain or discomfort in the chest area, upper body pain and/or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach, shortness of breath and finally nausea, cold sweat or lightheadedness/dizziness.

According to Wanda Highsmith, of HRMC's Cardiopulmonary Department, heart health can be achieved with relatively simple lifestyle changes.

"It all intertwines. Cigarette smoking decreases your ability to exercise due to oxygen levels in your blood being lowered", said Highsmith. "The very first thing I would recommend would be to stop smoking and get active. Even if you look healthy on the outside, it may be a totally different story inside your body. You can't see the plaque and the hardening of the arteries from the outside."


The use of tobacco products is one of the leading causes of coronary heart disease in the United States. According to the National Heart Association, using tobacco products causes blood to have an increased tendency to clot. Also, smoking decreases good cholesterol located in the body known as HDL cholesterol.

Smoking decreases an individual's ability to engage in physical activities, such as aerobic exercise. Smokers are at an increased risk of developing peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysms, especially those who have a family history of heart disease.

Healthy Food Choices

Another factor influencing heart health is dietary intake. The food you eat plays an important role on your body's health, either positive or negative. Foods high in sodium, Trans fats and sugars should be monitored or omitted from an individual's diet. It is also recommended individuals limit their intake of red meat, as well.

Dieticians recommend men consume less than 9 tsp of added sugar per day and women consume less than 6 tsp of added sugar per day. As a guideline, the intake of total fats should be less than 30% of an individual's total daily caloric intake. The intake of saturated fats should be less than 7% of daily calories and it is highly recommended individuals consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. The heart health conscious should consume 25-35 grams of fiber per day.

Healthcare professionals recommend consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils, as well
Those diagnosed with diabetes are at a greater risk of developing heart disease. As well as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are major factors in the development of heart disease. All three of these potential risk factors can be reduced with healthy eating and exercise.


A well-rounded exercise routine is especially important with regards to heart health. The American Heart Association recommends individuals receive at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity weekly.

A separate factor related to heart health is genetic predisposition. Those who have a family history of heart disease and/or stroke should take particular care of their health. As well as engaging in healthy eating and routine exercise, those with a genetic predisposition to heart disease should receive regular medical examinations to prevent heart disease.

HRMC and heart health care

HRMC and Coastal Plains offer numerous heart health services including outpatient dietary services, cardiac stress testing, echocardiogram, chest x-rays and cardiac CT scans, Holter monitoring, EKG monitoring, Pacemaker implantation and general physical examinations. HRMC also offers stat-of-the-art sleep studies to determine if an individual suffers from sleep apnea, which is potentially harmful to the heart.

Call (803)943-7600 today to schedule a heart health checkup!

As well as direct contact with HRMC and Coastal Plains healthcare professionals, HRMC's website offers links to additional heart health information under the Health Tips and Information link.