(WKBN) — February is American Heart Month, a time to focus on cardiovascular health.
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of all Americans — and the disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.
But some people still don’t know as much about the heart as they should.
“50% of African American women over the age of 20 have heart disease and so it’s just a very shocking statistic because a lot of times we see these as an older man’s disease,” said Tracy Behnke with the American Heart Association.
She said one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding heart health is that you’ll know you’re having a heart attack if you have chest pain.
While that’s a common sign, there are other symptoms that could indicate you need medical attention, like shortness of breath and nausea.
However, those symptoms don’t always mean you’re experiencing a heart attack.
“Sometimes people are experiencing just anxiety or things like that and they may mistake actually them having a heart attack for something with anxiety,” Behnke said.
According to Mercy Health, one of the most dangerous myths of all is that if you have heart disease you should take it easy.
Not enough movement can actually double your risk of cardiovascular disease and increase the risk of high blood pressure.
Behnke says American Heart Month comes at a perfect time.
“January 1, we’re all excited about New Year’s resolutions, changing our lifestyles, kind of taking these drastic changes at some point in time and by the time February hits some of those may fall off so it’s a great time for us to just kind of be in the forefront,” Behnke said.
She said it’s the small steps that can really make the biggest impact. She said knowing your numbers and family history is a great place to start.