February is American Heart Month

ALPENA – Current research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that, on an annual basis, heart disease is the nation’s leading cause of death claiming nearly 700,000 lives. Cancer ranks number two with strokes ranking within the top five. During 2021, COVID-19 deaths neared 400,000 Americans.

Data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services cited heart disease as the state’s number one mortality affecting over 25,000 lives.

The American Heart Association states approximately every 40 seconds someone experiences a heart attack.

America’s national recognition of heart disease is traced back to former President Lyndon B. Johnson (then a U.S. Senator) who experienced a heart attack at age 46. At this time, Johnson smoked 60 cigarettes daily.

On Dec. 30, 1963, in a joint resolution, the U.S. Congress requested the President annually proclaim February as American Heart Month.

The following February 1964, with the first American Heart Month, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office published research linking smoking to lung disease and heart disease.



The Mayo offers the following description of a heart attack; A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is severely reduced or blocked. The blockage is usually due to a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances in the heart (coronary) arteries. The fatty, cholesterol-containing deposits are called plaques. The process of plaque buildup is called atherosclerosis.

Sometimes, plaque can rupture and form a clot that blocks blood flow. A lack of blood flow can damage or destroy part of the heart muscle.

A heart attack is also called a myocardial infarction.

The American Heart Association lists the following warning signs of a heart attack:

∫ Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.

∫ Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

∫ Shortness of breath. This can occur with or without chest discomfort.

∫ Other signs. Other possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.

How to take care of yourself to avoid a possible heart attack? The American Heart Association recommends the following guidelines:

∫ Don’t smoke or vape and avoid second-hand smoke.

∫ Keep your blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg.

∫ Get your cholesterol checked and talk to your health care professional about your numbers.

∫ Eat foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium (salt), and added sugars.

∫ Be physically active. Aim weekly for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity.

∫ Reach and maintain a healthy weight. A normal body mass index is between 18.5 and 24.9.

∫ Keep your fasting blood sugar less than 100 mg/dL or an A1C of less than 5.7%.

∫ Get enough sleep. Aim for an average of seven to nine hours of daily sleep.

∫ Get regular medical check-ups.

∫ Take your medication as prescribed by your health care providers.


This year, as the American Heart Association prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary, they have established the mission for more Americans to learn how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

A high percentage of cardiac arrests occur at home. In addition, the Association cites children as young as nine years of age can perform CPR.

Numerous CPR training videos are available online. However, the Association, as well as the American College of Cardiology and other health care organizations recommend you learn CPR by training in person. Resources for CPR training can be through your local health department, the American Red Cross (1-800-733-2767), your local hospital or health care providers, police, fire, and rescue contacts, and perhaps with your place of employment.

During February you may note friends, family members, health care providers, heart disease survivors, and others wearing red attire or ribbons recognizing American Heart Month’s 60th anniversary.

Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired health care CEO. He frequently writes historic feature stories and op-eds for various Michigan newspapers. As a Vietnam-era veteran, he served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve. He served on the public affairs staff of the secretary of the Navy. He grew up in Alpena and resides in suburban Detroit.

Ten Interesting Heart Facts*

1. Your heart beats over 100,000 times per day.

2. Your heart pumps about 1.5 gallons of blood every minute. Over the course of a day, that adds up to over 2,000 gallons.

3. There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body. That’s enough to go around the world twice.

4. The average heartbeat of a woman is about 8 beats a minute faster than a man’s heartbeat.

5. An adult heart is about the size of two hands clasped together. A child’s heart is about the size of a fist.

6. Other than the cornea, every cell in the human body gets blood from the heart.

7. The right side of your heart pumps blood into your lungs. The left side of your heart pumps blood back through your body.

8. The greatest number of heart attacks occur each year on Christmas Day. The day after Christmas and New Year’s Day are close behind.

9. More heart attacks happen on a Monday than any other day of the week.

10. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. That’s why it’s important to be good to your heart by following a heart-healthy lifestyle.

*Temple University Health, Philadelphia, Penn.


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