February is Heart Health Month

February isn’t just for celebrating Valentine’s Day! February is also Heart Health Month and February 2nd is National Wear Red Day!

These campaigns were designed to bring awareness to heart disease, which is a leading cause of death for many Americans. An important goal of these campaigns is to educate men and women about the risk factors surrounding heart disease and providing information on how to prevent and reduce heart disease.

For both men and women, heart disease is the leading cause of death but it is also a preventable disease. 600,000 Americans die from heart disease every year.1

One of the most common types of heart disease is coronary artery disease – also called coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease – where plaque, made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in the blood, builds up and can lead to atherosclerosis, a thickening and hardening of the arteries.2 Plaque can build up end up causing blockage in the blood vessels, resulting in a heart attack or possible sudden cardiac death.

Law enforcement officers have an even more heightened liklihood of heart disease than the general population, with risk factors that include acute and chronic physical and psychological stress, sleep deprevation due to shift work, increased obesity and more.3 Studies have shown that officers suffer heart attacks at a younger age than their civillian counterparts, and those attacks are much more likely to be fatal.4

Heart disease is common, but it is also a preventable disease. Many organizations, including the American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Dignity Health all agree that choosing a heart healthy lifestyle is the best decision you can make.

The good news is that there are several small steps you can take to reduce your chance of heart disease:

  1. Exercise regularly and moderately for at least 20 to 30 minutes; if you have heart disease, contact your physician for a safe exercise regimen;
  2. Incorporate a diet that is low in salt, sugar and saturated fats, such as a Mediterranean Diet;
  3. Maintain a body weight that is within the normal range in accordance with organizations like the National Institute of Health and the American Heart Association and be aware of the number of calories in the foods you eat and make needed adjustments to maintain a healthy weight;5
  4. Reduce stress by getting sufficient sleep and learning and practicing relaxation techniques;
  5. Avoid smoking, recreational drug use and drinking alcohol excessively, and,
  6. Know your family health history and review your risk factors with your physician.

Knowing that heart disease remains the nation’s most preventable medical condition, it’s important to adopt a healthy lifestyle and take positive steps to stay healthy and prevent heart disease. A 1% change is better than no change at all.

For more information on a heart-healthy lifestyle, please visit the resources on the Anthem Blue Cross website.

PORAC and the Insurance and Benefits Trust wish you all a happy and healthy New Year and we hope that this information will be both helpful and encouraging!

Featured in the February 2024 issue of PORAC Law Enforcement News.

1. Retrieved from Dignity Health, dignityhealth.org
2. Retrieved from The Heart Foundation, theheartfoundation.org
3. Retrieved from Tara A. Hartley, et al., “Health Disparities in Police Officers: Comparisons to the US General Population.” ncbi.mlm.nih.gov
4. Retrieved from John M. Violanti, et al., “Life Expectancy in Police Officers: Comparisons to the US General Population.” ncbi.mlm.nih.gov
5. Retrieved from The National Institutes of Health, nhlbi.nih.gov/