The term “heart disease” conjures up images of arteries filled with plaque (atherosclerosis). Sometimes we picture “hardening of the arteries” (arteriosclerosis), in which coronary arteries become thick and lose their elasticity. We often associate these types of heart disease with people who are obese, smoke, don’t exercise or eat too many hamburgers. So, if we maintain a healthy weight, stop smoking, exercise and eat better we have nothing to worry about, right? Wrong.
February is American Heart Month — dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease. It’s time for all of us to realize this is not someone else’s disease. Heart disease, of which there are many types and causes, kills more people in the U.S. than all types of cancers combined. In fact, 267,000 women die each year from heart attacks — six times more than the number of women who die from breast cancer. Furthermore, sudden cardiac death (SCD) is the largest cause of natural death in the U.S., causing about 325,000 adult deaths each year. It is responsible for half of all heart disease deaths.