By Dr. Wayne Cascio
By Presidential proclamation, February 2016 is American Heart Month and once again we turn our attention to keeping our hearts healthy. In his proclamation, President Obama asks us to, “remember those we have lost to this devastating disease, promote healthy lifestyles that mitigate its impacts, and pledge to continue our fight against it.”
Here at EPA we are doing just that. In the Office of Research and Development, scientists are working to understand how our experiences with our environment interact with genetic, social and health factors to contribute to the progression of blood vessel and heart diseases like high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. And we stand with our President and our partners at the CDC’s Million Hearts Initiative to promote a healthy environment and lifestyle to keep hearts healthy and prevent heart disease and stroke and eliminate health disparities.
In the U.S. the prevalence of high blood pressure is highest among African American men often leading to stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure. So, today at 3 p.m. ET, we are joining Million Hearts and Men’s Health Network for a conversation on “What African American men need for a healthy heart” on Twitter using #HeartMonthChat.
The message is a simple one: Control risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, eat healthy, and stay active. Yet for some this is not an easy task. Who we are and where we live may limit our ability to follow this simple guidance. EPA is working to make a difference by helping communities benefit from healthier environments and enjoy healthier lives.
EPA researchers and research funded by EPA has greatly contributed to our knowledge of the connection between our environment and heart and blood vessel disease. Science shows that outdoor air particle pollution exposure increases blood pressure and increases the risk of stroke and heart attacks. And that improved air quality has translated into longer lives. Yet, it’s still the personal decisions we make about our lifestyles that have the biggest effect on our health. So taking action on lowering our risk factors for heart and blood vessel disease, making heart healthy food choices and increasing the availability of healthy environments to live and be active in can be a goal for all of us.
If you have heart or blood vessel disease the factsheet “Heart Disease, Stroke and Outdoor Air Pollution” tells how to use the Air Quality Index and its daily forecast to reduce exposure to air pollution and protect your health. It also includes information about risk factors and the warning symptoms of heart attacks and stroke.
You can access more information from EPA’s Healthy Heart Toolkit and learn about the science we are doing to protect heart health.
- Mozaffarian D, et al; American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2016 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2016 Jan 26;133(4):e38-e360.
About the Author: Dr. Wayne Cascio spent more than 25 years as a cardiologist before joining EPA’s Office of Research and Development where he now leads research on the links between exposures to air pollution and public health, and how people can use that information to maintain healthy hearts.