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Listen to Your Heart: World Heart Day 2015

World Heart Day takes place September 29 each year and is a chance for people across the globe to take part in the world’s biggest intervention against cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Listen to Your Heart: World Heart Day 2015

Each year, the World Heart Federation sponsors World Heart Day to raise awareness that cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, is the world’s leading cause of death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) heart disease and stroke were the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States in 2011. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) does not affect all groups of people in the same way; for example, black men are almost twice as likely as white women to die of cardiovascular disease. Many think heart disease occurs mostly in older people, but numerous deaths from this condition happen well before people reach the age of 75. Although many people associate cardiovascular disease only with men, it is the leading killer of U.S. women.

Examine Your Daily Habits

You may think a daily regimen of exercise and a strict diet is enough to avoid the risk of developing heart disease, but many medical studies indicate otherwise. The American Heart Association (AHA) warns that a few seemingly innocuous habits in your daily life could increase the risk of getting a cardiovascular disease. They are:

Sitting too much: Most of us lead a sedentary lifestyle—we end up sitting in front of a screen or steering wheel most of our waking hours and this is bad for your heart. The medical community says sitting for five or more hours every day could lead to heart disease. Change this habit by going for a short five minute walk every one to two hours to help your arteries stay flexible and to maintain good circulation.

Excessive alcohol consumption: The AHA recommends only two alcoholic beverages a day for men and one alcoholic beverage per day for women. Go overboard and you can interrupt normal heart rhythm, increase blood pressure, and court heart failure. Too much alcohol can also cause cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia, and sudden cardiac death.

A short temper: If you fly off the handle too often over petty issues you’re putting your heart at serious risk. Men and women with anger issues have two times the risk of CAD and three times the risk of heart failure. Anger, combined with anxiety, can lead to increased blood pressure, can disrupt the electrical impulses of the heart, and can advance the fat build up in arteries (arteriosclerosis). Next time you feel that boiling rage inside take a few deep breaths and calm yourself.

A cynical attitude: Does the glass always seem half empty to you? If the answer is yes, start looking at the bright side of life. Studies show negativity and cynicism contribute to poor heart health. A 2009 study on the topic says cynicism and hostility can not only increase the chances of heart disease and fatality, but can also lead to other illnesses, like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression.

Losing sleep: Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to high resting cortisol and adrenaline levels—the same the body experiences when faced with a stressful situation. Adults need eight hours of sleep each night; young adults should sleep for at least 10 hours.

Skipping regular flossing: Surprisingly, dental health may be directly related to cardiac health. The bacteria found in people with gum disease can flow into blood vessels in the mouth and on to the coronary arteries. These bacteria can narrow the arteries, affecting blood supply to the heart. A recent study showed 38% of those with CAD have gum issues.

Skipping the doctor: Regular check-ups are essential to make you aware of whether or not you have any cardiac disease symptoms or any illness which could contribute to heart disease.

Create a Heart-healthy Environment

Many early deaths caused by heart disease and strokes are preventable through making lifestyle changes. The CDC says by being physically active, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing other risk factors (such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes) you can reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Creating a heart healthy environment where you live, learn, work, and play is one way you can reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. What is a heart-healthy environment?

  • Neighborhoods with public spaces promoting physical activity, such as trails for walking, running, bicycling, and areas for playing outdoor games.
  • Schools and child care facilities providing quality physical education and nutritious meals.
  • Workplaces and community spaces that are smoke-free and feature healthy food options.

If your community does not offer these opportunities, consider working with your neighbors to learn more about these health benefits and promote healthy changes in your environment. You can make a difference in the heart health of your coworkers as well: Ask your employer to provide a smoke-free environment and healthy food choices in vending machines and cafeterias.

Steps to Take

In addition to enhancing your community and workplace, the following steps can be taken to

  • Visit your health care team—get a checkup at least once each year. Your doctor or nurse can check for conditions that are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is low in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Get active by taking a brisk 10-minute walk, three times a day, five days a week. Do more if you can. Remember to incorporate exercise into your day in different ways: Take the stairs instead of the elevator or rake the yard instead of using the leaf blower. Exercising with friends and family can be a great way to stay healthy and have fun.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. What weight is right for you? One way to determine if you are at a healthy weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which is based on your height and weight. For most people, BMI is a reliable indicator of body fat levels. Learn more here.
  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Ask your health care team for help in making a plan to quit or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
  • Moderate alcohol intake. If you choose to drink alcoholic beverages, don’t have more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.

As you can see, making just a few lifestyle changes can make a huge difference when it comes to your heart health. Take a few moments this World Heart Day to consider what steps you can take to improve your quality of life.

For more information, visit To make an appointment with one of our many qualified physicians, call Coastal Carolina Health Care’s Heart and Vascular Specialists at (252) 63-HEART (634-3278).

(Sources: World Heart Federation, American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and DNA Webdesk.)