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A healthy heart beats for American Heart Month

February is National American Heart Month and is dedicated to raising awareness for heart health. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Marcy Copeland/Released)

February is National American Heart Month and is dedicated to raising awareness for heart health. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Marcy Copeland/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- February is National American Heart Month and is dedicated to raising awareness for heart health.

Physically, the heart is the first organ to form after conception and weighs approximately 11 ounces once developed. At rest, it normally beats 70 times a minute, pumping about three ounces of blood with each beat. The heart contains four chambers and four valves that direct oxygen-depleted blood to the lungs and directs the oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. During an average life span of 75 years, a heart pumps nearly one million barrels of blood through the body. A network of almost 60,000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

But sometimes, not everything functions as it should.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. Every year, roughly 715,000 Americans have a heart attack and nearly 600,000 people die from heart disease. For most, it would have been preventable and controllable.

With more than 18 types of heart disease, coronary heart disease is the most common type, killing an estimated 385,000 people annually and costing the U.S. $108.9 billion in health care, medications and productivity loss, stated the CDC website.

"Like most heart diseases, certain heart diseases can be prevented and controlled by our behaviors," said Alan Muriera, 460th Medical Group health promotion manager and tobacco cessation coordinator. "Exercising and eating right helps to control cholesterol levels and stress, which play a big part in maintaining a healthy heart.

"Regular medical exams can also alert us to any irregularities with our hearts, especially if your family background shows a history of hyperlipidemia, hypertension and heart disease," Muriera said..

There are the five major heart attack symptoms to acknowledge:

· Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back
· Feeling weak, light-headed or faint
· Chest pain or discomfort
· Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder
· Shortness of breath

The journey to a healthy heart can begin with these simple lifestyle changes:

· Eat a healthy diet
· Maintain a healthy weight
· Exercise regularly
· Monitor blood pressure
· Don't smoke
· Limit alcohol use
· Check cholesterol levels

Maintaining a healthy weight and eating the right foods can help to reduce and prevent high cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.

"If we just eat right, exercise, control blood pressure and cholesterol, then we can decrease risk for heart disease by 50 percent," said Angela Peralta, 460th Medical Group registered nutritionist.

The Buckley Health and Wellness Center will be hosting a Heart Health Outreach information table at 11 a.m. Feb. 20 at the base commissary. In honor of American Heart Month, the HAWC will also be holding a heart healthy cooking class at 12 p.m. Feb. 21 in the HAWC classroom.

For more information about health and nutrition, call the HAWC at 720-847-6864.

Information about this article was retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HeartMonth/.
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