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Embrace a Healthy Heart: Prevent Heart Attacks and Strokes

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, heart disease and strokes are the first and fifth leading causes of death in the United States. Each year, more than 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack or stroke. More than 800,000 of them die.

Heart Disease and Stroke Are Often Preventable

The good news is that many heart attacks and strokes can be prevented. The right lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk. The DHHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are leading the MILLION HEARTS national initiative.

Million Hearts encourages Americans to make lifestyle choices that could decrease their chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke:
-use aspirin when appropriate
-control blood pressure
-manage high cholesterol
-stop smoking
-lower sodium (salt) consumption

The Role of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke and has been linked to dementia, according to the CDC. Nearly half of American adults have hypertension, higher blood pressure than normal. About 75% of adults with high blood pressure do not have their condition under control.

You should have your physician check you and your loved ones regularly for this often undiagnosed and untreated disease.

What Exactly Happens During A Heart Attack or Stroke?

A heart attack happens when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. Clots that cut off blood flow completely cause part of the heart muscle to die. If you've had a heart attack, it is critical that you make some changes in your lifestyle.

Most strokes are ischemic strokes. An ischemic stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain-not the heart-is blocked by a clot. In this case, the lack of blood and oxygen may kill brain cells. If this happens, depending on how long oxygen and blood were blocked, a person may have permanent brain damage. This can lead to long-term disabilities, like not being able to walk or talk. Strokes can also be fatal.

What Are the Signs of a Heart Attack?

The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to heart attacks.

Some heart attacks may happen suddenly, with intense pain. In these cases, it may be more clear what's happening.

But many heart attacks start slowly with only mild pain or discomfort. Sometimes people aren't sure what's wrong and they may wait too long before getting help. Waiting can increase the damage to the heart muscle.

Know the major symptoms of a heart attack:
-pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, stomach, or back
-feeling weak, dizzy, light-headed or faint
-chest pain or discomfort
-pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
-shortness of breath
-nausea (an additional symptom in women)
-unusual or unexplained fatigue

Heart attacks in women can appear much different than in men. For women, any symptoms from the waist upward, front or back of the body, including dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, vomiting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue can indicate a heart attack.

What Can You Do?

To protect yourself, stay smart about your heart:
-know the signs of a heart attack
-keep your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range
-talk to your doctor about your numbers and ask if medication is needed
-exercise most days of the week
-do not smoke or use tobacco
-limit or avoid alcohol use

And if you haven't had regular heart screenings with your doctor, start today. Your health plan benefits may cover many of your preventative care screenings at 100%.

-BCBS Connect Team

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