Protect Your Heart on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is usually filled with love, friendship, and romance for millions of Americans. The nation’s emergency physicians say the best way to show how much you care for your loved ones and yourself, is to get a health check-up, especially when it comes to your heart.

“Heart disease is still the leading cause of fatality in the United States for men and women, accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths,” said Dr. Jay Kaplan, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “If you or your loved ones aren’t getting a complete physical every year, stop what you’re doing and schedule one now.”

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. every year, according to the CDC.
  • More than half of those deaths were in men.
  • Every year, about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. About a third of those people (210,000) have already had a heart attack in their past.
  • Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 370,000 people each year.

Early action is essential when noticing the signs of a heart attack. The chances of survival increase when emergency treatment begins quickly. Some of the major warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats

Women can have different heart attack symptoms then men.  Whereas men might experience chest pain first, a woman might experience other common symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

If you think you are having the symptoms of a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.

In addition to scheduling an annual check-up now, there are steps you can take immediately to improve the health of your heart. They include:

>> Exercise Daily exercise (walking, running, cycling, aerobics, etc.)  is a proven way to strengthen your heart and overall health.  You should be getting some exercise each day.

>> Diet Fruits and vegetables are good. Foods heavy in salt are bad.  Eating a healthy diet will help your heart and make you feel better. Also, carefully read the ingredients listed on food packaging to determine how much sodium is included.

>> Smoking Take action now to quit smoking and to stay smoke free.

>> Weight Excessive weight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

>> Cholesterol Get your cholesterol check regularly and also eat foods low in saturated fat and trans fat.

>> Stress On top of a healthy diet and exercise, it’s important to alleviate stress and get plenty of sleep and rest.

For more information on heart health, visit

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.

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