Taking Action for a Healthy Heart

By Luis Velez, MD and Nicole Mitton

American Heart Month - Go red!We celebrate Valentine’s Day in February, which also happens to be American Heart Month. This is a great time to begin focusing on keeping our hearts healthy, and to make changes in our lifestyles to prevent heart disease—the leading cause of death in the US.

Many ethnic minority populations have higher rates of heart disease and related risk factors (American Heart Association and American Stroke Association). In Boston, blacks have the highest rates of heart disease hospitalizations, at 13.6 per 1,000 residents. Hispanics are next, with a rate of 11.5. Whittier Street Health Center’s main service area, Roxbury, has the highest rates of heart disease hospitalizations in the entire city at 14.7 (Boston Public Health Commission, Health of Boston 2012-2013).

Risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Lifestyle (e.g. tobacco use)
  • Family history
  • Medical conditions (diabetes, hypertension)

Prevention is a powerful tool against heart disease. If you believe you are at risk, some of the things you can do are:

  • Monitor your blood pressure – you can check it at home
    • Please note the new standard for normal blood pressure is 140/90
  • Keep your blood pressure controlled if you have high blood pressure
  • See your doctor if you suffer from constant headaches or chest pains
  • Quit smoking
  • Manage your other chronic disease(s), if you have them (e.g. diabetes, high cholesterol)

Whittier offers programs that will help you prevent or manage your risk factors for heart disease, including:

  1. Cardiovascular education groups (English and Spanish): Call 617-989-3197 for more details.
  2. Building Vibrant Communities: Wellness programming for adults and youth. Call 617-989-3111 to join.
  3. Nutrition consultation: Call our Registered Dietitian at 617-989-3183 for more details.
  4. Weekly Diabetes Groups: Ask your provider for more details.
  5. Smoking Cessation: Ask your provider for a referral to our partner, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which runs a smoking cessation program.

You can prevent or manage heart disease through healthier habits and better management of existing conditions. Your Whittier health care and wellness team will work with you toward your goals for a healthy heart.
Online resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “February is American Heart Month”
Mayo Clinic, Heart Disease: Prevention