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Heart Health Month: Stopping the number-one killer

Going to the gym regularly can certainly improve heart health. So can taking a walk or using the stairs instead of the elevator. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Lancaster) Going to the gym regularly can certainly improve heart health. So can taking a walk or using the stairs instead of the elevator. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Lancaster)

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. — As a cardiologist, the overall health of my patients is my priority and heart health a major focus. Cardiovascular disease, commonly known as heart disease, is often misunderstood to be a disease that only affects those in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. The alarming truth is it can also impact fit and healthy service members in their 30s and 40s. When I treated a young service member for chest discomfort after he had passed physical tests with ease, I witnessed his dismay as he was told he’d have to have a stent placed in an artery.

Dr. Jamalah Munir, a cardiologist at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in northern Virginia, encourages people to take command of their heart health and decrease the risk for heart disease – the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. (Fort Belvoir Community Hospital courtesy photo)Dr. Jamalah Munir, a cardiologist at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in northern Virginia, encourages people to take command of their heart health and decrease the risk for heart disease – the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. (Fort Belvoir Community Hospital courtesy photo)

The good news is heart disease is treatable and often also preventable. Throughout February, the Military Health System is dedicated to raising awareness and encouraging service members, veterans, and their family members to take care of their powerhouse organ.

Heart disease can be influenced by family history, lifestyle, and behaviors. As the number-one killer of Americans, heart disease affects roughly one in four people, and it’s not slowing down. With an increasing trend toward sedentary lifestyles and a growing number of processed foods in the American diet, an obesity epidemic has taken hold in western society. That makes it more important than ever to be proactive and take command of your own health through prevention.

Prevention through education and dedication is critical in the fight against heart disease. Many of its risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, are preventable or controllable. Minor changes in our lifestyles and choices can make a positive change in our overall heart health. Incorporating daily exercise and healthy eating, as well as making small changes to our routines, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and reducing sugar, salt, and fat intake, can make a significant improvement to our health and happiness.

Because heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, we encourage everyone to maintain routine check-up with your doctor, maintain a healthy weight, and properly manage any chronic problems such as high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

The MHS is committed to continuing to educate service members, veterans, and their families about the risks and warning signs of this dangerous disease. Wear Red is on Friday, February 2, and join us as we raise awareness about heart health and keep this conversation going. Small lifestyle changes that become habits can go a long way toward reducing your risk of developing heart disease. Now is the time to take command of your health.

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