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American Heart Month

writtenByWritten by: Leah McCabe
Leah McCabe

Leah McCabe

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

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December 10, 2020 Read Time - 5 minutes

American Heart Month

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States?

In fact, one in four adults dies from heart disease. That’s why American Heart Month is so important. Educating people about symptoms, treatment, and prevention of heart disease can help save lives.

What Month is American Heart Awareness Month?

American Heart Month has been honored every February since 1964. Additionally, the first Friday in February is National Wear Red for Women Day. Its purpose is to spread awareness about how symptoms of heart attacks and heart disease may look different in women than men.

What Is the Purpose of American Heart Month?

The purpose of American Heart Month is to educate people about heart disease and encourage them to eat healthier and exercise more to help prevent heart disease. Many causes of heart disease are preventable, so educating the public about heart health can help save lives.

What Age Does Heart Disease Start?

Heart disease can start at any age. In fact, congenital heart disease can be present at birth. Most types of heart disease, though, begin in adulthood.

However, forms of heart disease that were previously associated with older people (like high blood pressure and high cholesterol) are now being found in younger adults and even children.

It’s never too young to start developing good habits that can help prevent heart disease.

Symptoms and Types of Heart Disease

“Heart disease” is a very broad term. There are actually many different types and causes of heart disease. Each type of heart disease has its own symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

Atherosclerosis (Blood Vessel Disease)

This is one of the most familiar types of heart disease. The blood vessels become clogged with cholesterol and block off blood flow to part of the heart. Symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain, pressure, discomfort, or tightness (angina)
  • Pain in the throat, neck, jaw, back, or upper abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain, weakness, numbness, or coldness in arms or legs

Heart Arrhythmia (Abnormal Heartbeat)

Heart disease can be caused by your heart beating too slowly, quickly, or irregularly. Symptoms may include:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Fluttering in your chest
  • Chest pain or discomfort

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (Weak Heart Muscle)

You may not experience any symptoms when you first develop dilated cardiomyopathy, but symptoms may include:

  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting
  • Swelling of feet, ankles, and legs
  • Feeling out of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeats that feel fluttering, pounding, or rapid

Endocarditis (Heart Infection)

Technically, endocarditis is an infection that affects the inner membrane that separates the chambers and valves of the heart (endocardium). Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Changes in heart rhythm
  • Persistent dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in abdomen or legs
  • Skin rashes or unusual spots

Valvular Heart Disease (Damage to One or More of the Heart Valves)

The aortic, mitral, pulmonary, and tricuspid valves open and close to direct blood flow through the heart. Symptoms that there is a problem with one (or more) of your heart valves may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen ankles or feet
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain

Congenital Heart Defects (Heart Defects You’re Born With)

Severe heart defects are usually noticed shortly before or after birth. Milder defects may not be detected until young adulthood. Symptoms of congenital heart defects may include:

  • Blue or gray skin color
  • Shortness of breath during feedings (for an infant), causing poor weight gain
  • Swelling around the eyes or in the abdomen, legs, feet, ankles, or hands
  • Easily getting short of breath or tired during exercise

Heart Disease Risk Factors

Heart disease can strike just about anybody, but there are a variety of factors that put somebody at higher risk, including:

  • Older age
  • Being a man, or a woman after menopause
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Some chemotherapy or radiation drugs
  • Poor diet
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress
  • Poor hygiene

Heart Disease Treatment

Treatment for heart disease will vary depending on the cause of the heart disease. In general, heart disease treatment includes:

  • Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, getting more exercise, limiting alcohol intake, and eating a low-fat and low-sodium diet.
  • Medications, which will vary depending on the type of heart disease you’re battling.
  • Medical procedures or surgery may be required depending on the type and severity of your heart disease.

Heart Disease Prevention

Luckily, many types of heart disease can be prevented. Some ways to help avoid developing heart disease include:

  • Avoid or quit smoking
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes almost every day
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Manage and reduce stress
  • Eat a diet low in saturated fat and salt
  • Control other health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol

Spread Awareness this American Heart Month

Do your part for Heart Month this year and share this article with everybody you know. It just may save somebody’s life. 

Read More About Heart Health


Mayoclinic. Heart Disease. Accessed February 20, 2020 at February 2020: American Heart Month and Go Red for Women. Accessed February 20, 2020 at

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