Dakota Center for Independent Living

Heart and Stroke Month

February is Heart and Stroke Month. Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is the leading cause of death in the United States; one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. It describes a range of different heart conditions such as coronary artery disease, congenital heart defects (heart problems you are born with), and heart rhythm problems. These conditions range in severity and treatment style, but can all become dangerous if left alone. At worst, heart disease can cause other major issues, such as stroke, which can be deadly.

Strokes (“brain attacks”) occur when the brain loses blood supply and stops receiving oxygen. This is often due to blood vessel and artery issues caused by cardiovascular disease. Any areas of the brain that lose oxygen become injured, impairing the function of that area of the brain. This can lead to the loss of many mental and physical functions, paralysis, and in about 1/3 of cases, death.

Potential symptoms may include:

  • fluttering in your chest or racing heartbeat
  • chest discomfort or pain
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness or fainting
  • pale skin
  • swelling in the legs, hands, around the abdomen, or around the eyes
  • constant weakness and fatigue
  • numbness in arms and legs
  • persistent fever

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor immediately.

In contrast, strokes are hard to see coming beforehand because they are so sudden. If you believe someone is having a stroke, it is important to keep the acronym FAST in mind:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 9-1-1

Prevention is the best medicine. It needs to start with you.

  • Get up and get active by being physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Know your ABC’s
  • Ask our Doctor if you should take an Aspirin every day.
  • Find out if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and if you do, get effective treatment.
  • If you smoke, get help to quit.
  • Make your calories count by eating a heart-healthy diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in sodium and trans fat.
  • Take control of your heart health by following your doctor’s prescription instructions.

It is much easier to make healthy choices that prevent heart disease and strokes than it is to fix them after the fact. Therefore, people of all ages should be wary of their habits in an effort to prevent these conditions from happening to you.