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Matters of the Heart February 14, 2009

Posted by Anna Dillingham in Health Communications & Marketing.
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February is the month we celebrate the heart, not only on Valentine’s Day, but all month long.  February is Heart Awareness Month.

hearthealthAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States.  Over 650,000 individuals die each year from heart disease.  That’s over a quarter of all US deaths.  It is estimated that this year heart disease will cost more than $306 billion in health care services and lost productivity.

Since 1984, the CDC has conducted the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which is the largest on-going health telephone survey conducted in the United States.  It collects information from 350,000 individuals from around the country about the health status and health behaviors of America.  The information is used to identify and track health objectives, programs and policies and its data often supports legislative efforts. 

The BRFSS gives a glimpse of the magnitude of the heart disease problem and its associated risk factors in this country.  The 2007 BRFSS survey tells us:

  • 4.2% of Americans have had a heart attack and 4.1% have had angina or coronary heart disease.
  • Of adults who have had their blood cholesterol checked, 37.5% had high cholesterol.
  • Over a quarter (27.5%) of Americans have been told they have high blood pressure.
  • Only half of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise (30 minutes of moderate activity 5 times a week or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 times a week).
  • 36.7% of respondents reported that they were overweight and 26.3% said they were obese. 
  • Less than a quarter (24.3%) eat five servings of fruits or vegetables a day.

In many of the reported risk factors above the BRFSS survey data shows an ever worsening picture.  For example, in 1997 only 29% of adults reported they had high levels of cholesterol, now 2007 data shows it is over 37%.  Likewise, in ten years reported rates of high blood pressure increased by 4 percent.  Initiatives such as Heart Awareness Month, help raise educate the public about the signs and risk factors of heart disease.  Increasing knowledge is the first step in empowering individuals to make changes to improve their health, and the health of their loved ones.  

You can wish someone you love a heart healthy Valentine’s Day by sending one of CDC’s e-health cards here.

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