CHENANGO COUNTY — It's National Wear Red Day, an event created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) — an organization that's part of the National Institute of Health — to spread awareness of heart disease, the leading cause of death for Americans, as well as ways individuals can keep their hearts healthy.
Chenango County Health Department Senior Health Educator Christina Arnold said the tricky thing about heart disease is that it can be hard to detect, as there are generally little to no warning signs.
"They really call it the silent killer because you don’t really know if you have some of these problems," said Arnold.
"It is important to know your numbers," she continued. "You may not be aware of a health problem you are having because you may not experience obvious signs and symptoms of an issue."
Knowing "your numbers," such as blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, is just one of the ways individuals can keep an eye on their heart health.
The American Heart Association outlines what they call “Life’s Essential 8" — eight key steps to both improving and maintaining heart health. In turn, following these guidelines can help prevent the risk of major health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and others.
The Essential 8 include eat better, be more active, quit tobacco, get healthy sleep, manage weight, control cholesterol, manage blood sugar, and manage blood pressure.
The American Heart Association offers an online tool called My Life Check that lets individuals assess their heart health and better understand their risk for heart disease or stroke. My Life Check can be found at mlc.heart.org.
Arnold added awareness of heart health and living a heart-healthy lifestyle is especially crucial for women. Since 2002, women's awareness of heart health has doubled. However, it remains the leading cause of death in women.
"Any increased awareness to younger women to be aware of their heart health is very important through the lifespan," said Arnold.
The National Institute of Health and the NHLBI launched The Heart Truth in 2002 as a way to raise awareness about heart disease.
"[It's] a registered trademark for the National Institute of Health. It’s a health education program to raise awareness about heart disease and encourage people to live a heart-healthy lifestyle, and it’s got a lot of good tools and materials on there," Arnold explained.
The Heart Truth was also geared toward women, and first focused on women between the ages of 40 and 60, with an added emphasis on reaching women of color.
From there, The Heart Truth grew and created the Healthy Hearts Network, to broaden their reach into communities, and to create collaborations with health and community professionals to further promote cardiovascular health education.
Ultimately, the outreach efforts of the NHLBI aim to "amplify awareness about heart disease risk factors; help people identify specific health goals to control risk factors; increase individual accountability to prevent heart disease; and grow the number of Americans who intend to take action to protect their hearts and control modifiable risk factors."
The Chenango County Health Department will be joining this mission today by wearing red in support of Wear Red Day, and by spreading awareness of heart disease and cardiovascular health.
February is also National Heart Month, so the Chenango County Health Department has chosen cardiovascular health as their focus for the month. They've already begun spreading information and awareness with their article on the correlation between high blood pressure and cardiovascular dementia, which was published in the February 1 edition of the Evening Sun.
Arnold urged individuals to check in on their heart health, visit their doctor every year to get blood pressure and cholesterol checked, and follow the Essential 8 to improve and maintain heart health.
"Really try to get physical activity every day, and maintain a healthy weight. Controlling blood pressure numbers. Quitting smoking, that’s a good one," she said. "Reducing stress, that’s always hard, and eating a heart-healthy diet."
For more information on cardiovascular health and heart health initiatives, visit nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/education-and-awareness/heart-truth/about and heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/lifes-essential-8.