Red heart shape and medical stethoscope

Every year, the federal government declares the month of February to be American Heart Month, a campaign to draw awareness to the ever-increasing problem of heart disease in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), complications from heart disease account for 610,000 deaths annually in this country alone.

That makes it the leading cause of death in America, where more than 710,000 people suffer a heart attack every year.

Heart attacks aren’t the only concern though; other forms of heart disease include:

• Stroke

• High blood pressure

• Heart failure

Am I at risk?

Knowing the common symptoms of these incidents might save your life, but it’s even more important to recognize the early signs that could prevent them from ever taking place.

Symptoms of major events like heart attacks are hard to miss, but a number of early indicators are easily overlooked as mild annoyances:

• Difficulty catching your breath after moderate physical activity

• Fast, slow or irregular heartbeat

• Clutching or squeezing chest pains for short periods of time

• Periodic upper body discomfort

• Dizziness

• Changes in your extremities (pain, numbness, swelling)

What should I do?

If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss ways to reduce your risk of a major cardiac event. A simple change to your diet and lifestyle could pave the way to a healthier and happier heart.

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