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February is American Heart Month

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Author: Liz Fisher | Category: Beyond The Bench | Of Interest | Cell Biology, Genetics & Molecular Medicine (CGM) | January 26, 2017

Cardiovascular disease contributes to 28 percent of all deaths in San Antonio, and is the number one killer worldwide. February is American Heart Month, and one of the kick off events for the month is National Wear Red Day, which occurs Friday, February 3rd this year. 

National Wear Red Day aims to provide awareness for cardiovascular diseases and to encourage people to “know their numbers,” to check on their hearts to prevent the disease. Specifically, individuals should have their cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and BMI checked, as these factors contribute to heart disease risk. This is especially important in African American communities, who have the highest disease incidence, and the greatest risk of experiences a cardiovascular event.

The American Heart Association (AHA) puts on the National Wear Red Day as part of their Go Red for Women initiative, which supports awareness for the cardiac health of women. Women are more likely to experience a cardiac event after the age of 55, and it is the number one cause of death in women, making it especially important to know their numbers. When experiencing a cardiac event, women also often display different symptoms than men on top of chest pain, which may delay seeking immediate care. These symptoms include jaw and lower back pain, shortness of breath, and nausea and vomiting. Awareness of these differences can potentially save lives.

As part of cardiovascular disease awareness, AHA encourages individuals to know the symptoms of a stroke as well. Time plays a crucial role in recovery from a stroke, so rapid response is important, as it reduces the amount of brain damage that occurs. If someone experiences sudden confusion, facial numbness, loss of balance, severe headache with no known cause; or trouble speaking, walking, understanding, or seeing in one or both eyes please seek medical care immediately.

One of the largest risk factors for a cardiac event is high blood pressure. While approximately one third of Americans have high blood pressure, only 77 percent take antihypertensive drugs and only half of those individuals have their blood pressure under control. Diabetes can also increase risk for heart disease by two to four times. Lifestyle habits such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking, all help prevent heart disease and stroke. While heart disease deaths have been declining since the 1980’s through improved medical interventions, identifying those at risk and helping change their lifestyles is also credited with saving lives.

The San Antonio affiliate of the AHA is also hosting a Go Red for Women luncheon at the Witte on February 9th, in part as a fundraiser for critical research, outreach, and awareness programs. The AHA funds many research programs at UT Health San Antonio, including individual fellowships to students and post doctoral fellows. Please join the AHA in supporting awareness and prevention of cardiovascular disease, and their continued support of critical primary research by wearing red on February 3rd, and learning the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

For more information on your numbers, and how to take steps to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, go here. To learn more about stroke and heart attack symptoms and warning signs, go here.

To learn more about the San Antonio American Heart Association affiliate, and to volunteer or participate in events, go here.

This article was written by Liz Fisher, a graduate student in the IBMS- Cell biology, genetics and molecular medicine (CGM) track/discipline and member of the Women in Science, Development, Outreach and Mentoring (WISDOM) group at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. 

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