MANCHESTER — Each February, during American Heart Month, the American Heart Association and the nation come together to ignite a wave of red from coast to coast. From landmarks to neighborhoods to online communities; this annual groundswell unites millions of people for a common goal: the eradication of heart disease and stroke.

This February, take time to focus on your heart health and encourage your family, friends, and community to get involved.

While 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases can be prevented through modest changes to diet and lifestyle, disparities in care for women’s heart and brain health continue to exist. In addition, heart disease and stroke symptoms can present differently in women compared to men. Women also make up less than half of all clinical trial participants globally, with women of color only accounting for three percent.

“To effectively impact the risk of heart disease in women, we must take action to increase awareness of its symptoms and signs, encourage heart-healthy diets, exercise and cessation of cigarette smoking, and improve access to care particularly in underserved communities,” said Dr. Mark Creager, Director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and a past president of the American Heart Association. “As women may respond differently than men to medications and other interventions, it is necessary for researchers to substantially increase the number of women in clinical trials, and particularly those from minority populations, to identify for them the most effective therapies to prevent and treat heart disease.”

Although heart attack warning signs can be different for everyone, knowing these signs can get you help faster.

• Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. 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 with or without chest discomfort.

• Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

If you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, initiate the two steps of Hands-Only CPR. Call 911 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of any tune that is 100 to 120 beats per minute. Immediate CPR can double or even triple a person's chance of survival.

Cardiovascular diseases continue to be a health threat in the United States. To treat, beat and prevent heart disease and stroke, the American Heart Association recommends understanding family health history, knowing five key personal health numbers - these help determine risk for heart disease and stroke: total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index – and making healthy behavior changes like moving more, eating smart and managing blood pressure.

 

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