Take a beat to love your heart during heart month

By Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr.
February 1, 2024

Matters of the heart tend to be emphasized more during the month of February. Valentine’s Day is a day set aside to express from your heart how much your loved ones mean to you. It is also a time to give some love to your heart, during American Heart Month.

February is American Heart Month, a time to pay special attention to understanding, preventing, and treating heart disease – the leading cause of death in the nation.

Over 874,000 Americans died of cardiovascular disease in 2019, according to the American Heart Association. American Heart Month brings awareness to the factors surrounding heart disease, like symptoms, complications, and risk factors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the CDC, Native Americans/Alaska Natives were 50% more likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease than their white counterparts. Choctaw Nation numbers for 2023 include: Hypertension was the No. 2 diagnosis (Diabetes No. 1) with over 36,000 visits being attributed to that diagnosis, which is a 6% increase from the prior year. Over 21% of all CNHSA patients have hypertension as a primary diagnosis.

For American Heart Month, the Choctaw Nation and other organizations reinforce the importance of heart health, the need for more research and efforts to ensure that millions of people live longer and healthier.

According to the American Heart Association, here are just a few examples of how you can reclaim your health:

Doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. The Reservation’s Wellness Centers is a great place to do that!

  • Eating healthy.
  • Not smoking or vaping.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Controlling blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
  • Getting regular checkups.
  • Learning Hands-Only CPR.
  • Following COVID-19 safety protocols.
  • Finding ways to relax and ease your mind, such as meditation.

Taking care of your heart also pays dividends for your brain.  That’s because many of the risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, are also related to brain diseases such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, experts note.

Many people have delayed or avoided seeking medical care. Unhealthy use of alcohol and other substances has been on the rise. All these things can increase the risk of heart disease.

President Lyndon B. Johnson, among the millions of people in the country who experienced heart attacks, issued the first proclamation for American Heart Month in 1964 to spotlight heart disease. Since then, U.S. presidents have annually declared the federally designated event for February.

The first Friday of American Heart Month, Feb. 4, is also National Wear Red Day to bring awareness. The Choctaw Nation observes this day and urges associates to wear red that day.

Go red to raise awareness and support the fight against heart disease – the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths. That’s more than all forms of cancer combined.

For more information on the event and other activities during the month, visit the Choctaw Nation Events page.

Your heart is the motor for your body and in order for your body to operate like it should you have to pay attention to your heart health before it’s too late.