Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the number one cause of death in men, but it is also the number one cause of death in women. Statistically, one in three women’s deaths can be attributed to heart disease or stroke. Though a great many people realize the importance and implications of heart disease in men, that same awareness has not always been present concerning women’s heart health. Partly because of programs and information coming from the American Heart Association (AHA), our understanding of heart disease—the Silent Killer—in women has grown over the last several years. February has been set aside as National Heart Month to help further that understanding. Wear Red Day is another one of AHA’s efforts to increase awareness of these diseases.
The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to educating and working to prevent heart disease and stroke among our populace.
Founded in 1924 by six cardiologists, today the association includes 22.5 million volunteers and supporters across the United States. The organization helps to fund research, lobby government for stronger health policies, and provide information that may not only save lives but also improve lifestyles. Before the AHA existed, little was known about how to effectively treat or prevent the disease. It was generally thought the best approach was complete bedrest, with few physical activities being allowed. Because of the American Heart Association’s efforts, great strides have been made in our understanding and treatment of this killer.
Worldwide, heart disease is the leading cause of adult deaths, but stroke is second and is the leading cause of severe disability in all populations. Each year 786,000 Americans die from heart-related diseases. But in efforts to offer additional information centered around cardio-vascular health and stroke issues, the American Stroke Association began as a connected organization with the AHA in 1997.
Scientific findings from heart research have led the American Heart Association to take important positive measures concerning heart issues, measures that sometimes are not always popular. For example, despite strong opposition from the American Tobacco Industry, the American Heart Association has been leaders in the fight against smoking and using other tobacco products. They continue to be a leader in public health education and research designed to improve cardiovascular health for the entire country. The American Heart Association publishes popular heart- healthy cookbooks, trains more than 13 million people annually in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), certifies heart-healthy foods in grocery stores, are leaders in the fight against childhood obesity, and researches heart disease in women, African Americans and Hispanics.
The threat of heart disease is very real; however, heart conditions are estimated to be 80% preventable. Experts say that with education and using preventive measures, Americans and others can make positive strides toward living longer and healthier lives. The American Heart Association has laid out seven steps—Life’s Simple 7—to lower the risk of heart disease. Those steps are as follows:
• Not smoking,
• Being physically active,
• Maintaining a healthy body weight,
• Eating a healthy diet,
• Controlling blood pressure,
• Controlling cholesterol, and
• Controlling blood sugar.
While heart disease touches virtually every family in some way in America, the American Heart Association’s efforts with CHD have increased their overall knowledge of the disease, and people are becoming more aware of how to prevent these killers from taking total control of their lives. Perhaps through continued research, more breakthroughs will help others in the future to improve their chances of beating heart disease and stroke, live longer and have more satisfying and productive lives.