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Message from the State Health Officer

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Promote Heart Health During American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, an observance to increase our focus on cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death in the United States and Alabama. CVD includes diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels, including heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and stroke.

Consider these facts:

  • More than 1 in 3 U.S. adults have at least one type of CVD.
  • In the U.S., 1 in every 3 deaths is from heart disease and stroke--equal to 2,200 deaths per day.
  • In 2014, the death rate from heart disease in Alabama was 257.6 per 100,000 population, a rate much higher than the rate for the nation of 189.8 per 100,000.
  • The 2014 stroke rate in Alabama was 36.2 per 100,000, while the U.S. rate was 53.6 per 100,000.1

This month, we are highlighting Million Hearts™, a public-private initiative dedicated to preventing the nation's leading killers and empowering everyone to make heart-healthy choices. Million Hearts™ involves many federal agencies and key private organizations.

Launched in September 2011 by the Department of Health and Human Services, Million Hearts™ aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. by 2017.

Million Hearts™ emphasizes that to decrease CVD, we must make responsible and appropriate long-term lifestyle changes and take fundamental steps as individuals. The good news is that we can modify and control risk factors, which include the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity
  • Inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption

CVD and its risk factors are not distributed evenly across the U.S. population, and some risk factors cannot be changed. Certain groups defined by age, sex, race, ethnicity, or geography, have higher levels than others do.

Disproportionately high rates of avoidable CVD deaths are found among black men and among adults aged 30–74 years living in the Southeast, highlighting the need for targeted efforts to alleviate disparities and improve health. Black men experience a death rate attributable to CVD that is about 2.7 times higher than that of the lowest rate, found among white women.

The initiative asks everyone to protect themselves and their loved ones from CVD by understanding the risks, making healthful choices, and taking these steps:

  • Know and follow the ABCS that address the major risk factors for CVD.
        - Ask your doctor if you should take an Aspirin every day.
        - Find out if you have high Blood pressure or high Cholesterol, and if you do, get effective treatment.
        - If you Smoke, get help to quit.
  • Get up and get moving by being physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Make your calories count by eating a heart-healthy diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in sodium and trans fat.
  • Take control of your heart health by following your doctor’s prescription instructions.
    To learn more about lowering your risk of CVD and for more information, visit Million Hearts and Cardiovascular Health.

Thomas M. Miller, M.D.
Acting State Health Officer

1 National Center for Health Statistics, Health, 2015

Thomas M. Miller, M.D.
Acting State Health Officer

(February 2016)

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