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American Heart Month spotlights heart-related disabilities

This month marks the annual American Heart Month, as sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal of the month is to call attention to heart disease and related disabilities, and to educate people in California and throughout the country on steps they can take to prevent heart-related illness and ailments.

Heart disease is a major cause of disability in the United States. Because of this, several coronary diseases qualify for Social Security Disability benefits under section 4 ("Cardiovascular System") on the Social Security Administration listing of impairments. Heart and cardiovascular diseases affect millions of Americans. About 785,000 Americans had a new coronary attack in 2010, and nearly 500,000 had a recurrent attack, according to CDC data.

There are several heart-related conditions that increase the risk of disability or death. These include peripheral artery disease (PAD), arrhythmia, and heart failure. Other risk factors that contribute to or worsen heart disease are obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, poor diet and physical inactivity, and tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

In sum, an American will have a coronary event about every 25 seconds. Once every minute, a coronary event leads to death.

However, there are things you can do to prevent heart disease from taking the lives of your family members or loved ones. First, encourage them to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and reduce the risk factors listed above. Second, be aware of the signs of a heart attack or other coronary event. These include discomfort in the chest or other areas of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach. Shortness of breath, nausea, and lightheadedness are also common signs of a coronary event.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "February is American Heart Month"

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