By Representative LaKeshia N. Myers
The month of February is notable for many things: President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Black History Month. But did you know it was also heart health awareness month? According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer for all Americans, and stroke is also a leading cause of death. In 2015, thirty-four percent (15,892) of all Wisconsin deaths were due to cardiovascular disease.
This included 7,608 deaths due to coronary (ischemic) heart disease, 1,440 deaths due to congestive heart failure, and 2,952 deaths due to stroke (Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 2019).
While these statistics may seem abysmal, all is not lost. Wisconsinites can decrease their chance of having a cardiovascular disorder by understanding the risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, are the most common conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Consistently monitoring your blood pressure can be helpful in identifying hypertension (high blood pressure). Because we oftentimes do not monitor our blood pressure, we can be at greater risk for cardiovascular challenges. Heart attacks and strokes are often called “silent killers” because their symptoms are easily missed by patients. Therefore, consistent blood pressure monitoring and communication with your doctor can help reduce risk.
Other key indicators of heart attack and stroke are obesity and diabetes. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, seventy-seven percent of men and sixty-two percent of women living in the state of Wisconsin are obese. The American Heart Association recommends eating a diet rich with vegetables. Limiting red meat (beef) and opting for leaner meats (turkey and fish); and using fresh vegetables versus canned vegetables are often a better option for families as canned vegetables often contain a higher sodium content. If you are like me, and are constantly on the go—cooking may not always be an option. I often prepare my food using a crockpot, cooking meals at night or while I am away. If you must have a meal at a fast food restaurant, I suggest opting for a healthier option like salad or a vegetable soup.
Exercise is also paramount to having a healthy heart. The AHA recommends every American engage in at least thirty minutes of physical activity each day. This can include brisk walks, bike riding, jogging, and line dancing, etc. If you prefer to exercise in a group setting, please check consider the F.E.A.R. (Social X MKE) running collective, Martin Luther King Center soul cycling class, and the Mind, Body, Soul line dancing classes held at the Wisconsin African American Women’s Center. These are all fun ways to get physical and keep your heart in shape. Together, we can do better to ensure all Wisconsin families are heart healthy.