FEBRUARY IS AMERICAN HEART MONTH. ACTUALLY IT IS THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY of the first Heart Month, which took place in February 1964 after a proclamation issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Dec 30, 1963, at the request of Congress.
The purpose of the federal designation according to the American Heart Association, is to “remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families friends and communities involved.”
At the time of the proclamation, more than 50% of the country’s deaths were attributed to cardiovascular disease. This number has slowly fallen, indicated an article from Healthline.com, which used data from a 2017 CDC report. It identified heart disease as currently causing about 23% of deaths despite remaining the most common cause of death, and stroke roughly 5%. Hold on though, in 2011 the number had begun to rise slowly, such that between 2011 and 2014 heart disease deaths increased by 3%.
Health-news headlines are sounding the alarm.
“Nearly half of US adults have some form of cardiovascular disease” screams the title of an article in USAToday.com Brett Molina. The statistics are mostly being driven by the downward revision in 2017 of guidelines now used to define hypertension, a condition in which pressure within blood vessels is too high, say experts referenced in this article and another in Time.com.
Prior to the recent change, blood pressure readings above 140 mmHg systolic or 90 mmHg diastolic (140/90) were considered to identify hypertension. Those figures were brought down to 130/80, as approved by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association.
In plain terms, if blood pressure readings taken by a health care provider consistently exceed this new set of numbers (130/80), we can consider ourselves as having a cardiovascular disease and being included in this grouping. Yikes!
We might think younger age protects us from this condition. However, hypertension is not necessarily a disease of the elderly. The report “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics- 2019 Update” from the American Heart Association e-published ahead of print, included population statistics. It showed the “age-adjusted prevalence of hypertension among US adults ³ 20 years of age was estimated to be 46% in NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) in 2013 to 2016 (49%for males and 42.8% for females)”.
In the report, a bar graph of persons who are AWARE of having hypertension for the period 2013-2016 displays the NHANES population figures: 41.7% (age 20-39 years); 59.9% age (40-59years) and 77% (age³ 60years). Per group the percent persons treated is less and percent with their blood pressure under control is even lower.
Wow! If nearly 42% of persons age 20-39 know they have high BP, how many don’t know it? The same data indicates that “35.3% of US adults with hypertension are NOT AWARE that they have it.” Usually there are no symptoms until serious complications occur, indicates an NIH.gov webpage on the topic.
Why is it important to detect hypertension in your 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s? Because, the AHA report says, eliminating it could reduce death from cardiovascular disease by 30.4% among males and 38.0% among females. Elimination of hypertension is projected to have a larger impact on cardiovascular disease mortality (deaths) than the elimination of all other risk factors among women and all other factors in men except for smoking.
The key to being aware and then taking steps to eliminate high blood pressure is checking pressure readings routinely, perhaps outside of the doctor’s office, at home.
A study presentation at the AHA September 2018 conference revealed that:
The study findings mean we’re more likely to identify true up-ward trends sooner by regular personal monitoring than if we rely on once-a-year readings taken in a medical office setting. Detecting a problem may require 2-3 office visits over several years, whereas with at-home monitoring the difference might be noticed over several months. Once discovered, there’s a better chance of achieving control with medical help.
If buying a personal sphygnomanometer (blood pressure monitor), can’t be accommodated by in a tight budget, there are pharmacies and other businesses offering opportunities for free blood pressure monitoring.
In February 2019, observance of American Heart Month can serve to remind us that the guidelines for healthy blood pressure numbers have changed, and to make sure that our numbers remain in the safe range, we might consider monitoring them at home.
I purchased our Omron brand device several years ago but only monitored my BP sporadically. With the downward revision of hypertension guidelines to 130/80 mmHg I feel it is time to get serious and check BP weekly, like I would check my mile walking pace and weight.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
"Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics- 2019 Update”
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. In 1978 I began participating in 10K road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health and longevity.
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