Youth Health Bulletin
Have you ever heard that someone you know has heart disease? It is a very common illness, and in fact, more than 60 million Americans have it. Wally Cat wants to make sure you know what heart disease is and how you can take care of your heart.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is also known as cardiovascular disease. As you may have guessed, a person who has heart disease has problems with their heart and blood vessels — they are not working the way they should.
There are many problems that people with heart disease have, such as high blood pressure and chest pains. People with heart disease are also more likely to have heart attacks and strokes. A heart attack is when there is a blockage of blood flow to the heart. This means that the heart is not getting the blood that is needed for it to work properly. A stroke is when a place in the brain is not getting enough blood.
Other Problems for People With Heart Disease
- The arteries get hard, making it more difficult to move blood through the body.
- An area of fat and cholesterol builds up, making the passageway for blood narrower. This makes it harder for blood to get to the body.
Can You Catch Heart Disease?
Heart disease is not an illness that is spreads by germs like a cold! There are risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of getting heart disease. Some of the risk factors cannot be controlled, such as getting older and having other people in the family with the disease. There are some risk factors that can be controlled, such as smoking, having high blood pressure, being overweight, or not exercising enough.
How Do You Prevent Heart Disease?
There are ways you can start to prevent heart disease even at your age. You can watch out for some of the risk factors like high blood pressure, obesity, and physical inactivity. As a child, you can watch what you eat and how much you are active.
Try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables — and if they are fresh, even better! Also, you should try to be as active as you can. Throughout the day, you should be active for at least an hour. You also want to be aware of how much time you are sitting in front of a screen, whether it is the TV, computer, tablet, or phone. This type of activity has little to no physical activity.
Fun ways to be physically active include:
- Riding your bike. You might be able to go for a bike ride in your neighborhood or at a nearby park.
- Swimming. Join a swim team through your school or community. The Oldham County YMCA has an indoor pool so you can stay active even during winter.
- Walking your dog. Physical activity is good for you and Fido too!
Wally Cat wants you to know about heart disease because it affects so many people. He also wants you to start good habits to protect your heart, such as eating healthy and staying active.
Written by Nicole Peritore, Kentucky Extension Specialist for Family Health. Edited by Connee Wheeler, Senior Extension Specialist, and Lauren State, Oldham County Extension Staff Assistant. Source material from the Centers for Disease Control. Wally Cat illustrations by Chris Ware (© University of Kentucky School of Human Environmental Sciences).