In honor of American Heart Month, CEO of the American Heart Association Nancy Brown reflected on the past half century of U.S. awareness-raising for heart health.
In an article on Huffingtonpost.com, she pointed out that in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson originally proclaimed February to be American Heart Month which became the pivotal point in American heart health history.
By 1960, 924,000 in the United States were dying annually from cardiovascular disease. Of these deaths, 662,000 were from heart disease. We must be doing something right, because 50 years later, in 2010, cardiovascular disease claimed 784,000 and of those numbers 600,000 were from heart disease.
Too many? Certainly. But the numbers had significantly dropped. And considering that there were 72 percent more Americans in 2010 than there were in 1960, those numbers are even more encouraging.
What has helped to bring about these changes?
Brown attributes much of this decrease to improvements in diagnosis, equipment, research, drugs and treatment. The nation as a whole is trying to quit smoking, eat better and get more exercise.
And of course, increased awareness and information about heart disease has been essential to beating the illness and saving lives. Which brings us back to the importance and success of American Heart Month.
The American Heart Association has supported cardiovascular research since its origins in 1924 to the tune of more than three billion dollars. Its contributions now exceed 100 million dollars a year.
Though the numbers have been decreasing, it's still true that heart disease remains public enemy number one in the United States. And more women than men die from stroke and heart disease, ever since 1984.
Want to improve your odds of avoiding cardiovascular disease, including heart disease?
The CDC website offers many suggestions.
Enlist the help of your health care practitioners. Have an annual checkup. Get yourself checked for diabetes and high blood pressure, and other conditions that can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Have your cholesterol checked every five years with a simple blood test.