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How to make a difference when it comes to heart health

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(BPT) - Did you know that every 33 seconds in the U.S., one person dies from heart disease? This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also reports that while affecting people of all ethnic backgrounds, cardiovascular disease accounts for nearly one-fourth (22.6%) of deaths among African Americans. Heart and heart vessel disease can lead to serious health events including heart attacks and strokes.

To make a difference when it comes to heart health in honor of Heart Health Month, learn how you, your family, and your community can support your well-being — and consider opportunities for pursuing a career in healthcare.

Impact of heart disease for African Americans

Data published by the American Heart Association in 2022 found that around 60% of Black men and women had cardiovascular disease, making the mortality rate due to heart disease among the highest in Black Americans compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

"While many factors such as lifestyle and family health history contribute to the high rate of heart disease for African Americans, it has also been found that inequities within the health care system and unequal access to quality health care create serious obstacles," said Dr. Tony Anno, core faculty in the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program at Walden University.

Social determinants of health such as having safe housing, adequate income, access to healthy food and clean water, plus education and job opportunities, are all part of the environment impacting the overall health of an individual, their family and entire communities. These factors are real burdens when it comes to people being able to be proactive about their own wellness.

"Concerns ranging from lack of insurance or being underinsured, to insufficient transportation and the inability to take off work to get checkups can all keep people from taking care of their health," said Dr. Anno. "For nurses and others working in the field of public health, we try to bridge those gaps by providing information about access to screenings and lifestyle changes people may find helpful to support their heart health."

Heart health tips to practice and share with others

To help reduce your own risk of heart disease, here are some lifestyle tips recommended by the CDC.

Get moving: Regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthier weight, while also potentially lowering your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels. Whether you walk, play a sport, go to the gym, dance, swim or cycle — any activity is better than no activity. Always consult your health care provider before starting an exercise program.

Eat food that fuels your body: Choosing fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean proteins will provide more nutrients your body needs than foods containing too much sugar, salt or saturated and trans fats.

See your doctor at least once a year: Annual wellness checks provide opportunities for important screenings that can detect risk factors for heart disease, such as your blood pressure, plus cholesterol and glucose levels. This can help you and your health care team take action to support your health.

Reduce smoking and alcohol intake: If you smoke, now is a great time to quit. Ask your health care provider for assistance to quit smoking. Reducing drinking to one per day for women and two per day for men can also help improve your blood pressure.

Consider a career in healthcare

If you want to help communities understand the risks of heart disease and how to take steps for a healthier heart, you might be interested in advancing your nursing education at Walden University. For example, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can prepare you to define your path, find your voice, and play a bigger role in healthcare.

Gain the knowledge and leadership skills to address health and access issues for populations in underserved communities, and focus on key health issues that may otherwise be overlooked. In this program, you'll have the opportunity to learn from practicing healthcare professionals, like Dr. Tony Anno, who hold doctoral degrees.

Learn more about this and other online degree programs at WaldenU.edu.