Health Officials Encourage South Carolinians to Live a Heart Smart Lifestyle

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February is American Heart Month, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is reminding residents how important it is to maintain positive habits that build a strong and healthy heart.

American Heart Month is a national campaign that spotlights cardiovascular (heart) health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States, with around 695,000 Americans dying from heart disease each year. Heart disease was the number one cause of death in South Carolina in 2021, with 12,210 South Carolinians dying from heart disease that year.

Disparities exist in heart health outcomes, with African Americans facing a higher risk of developing ischemic heart disease— decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle— when compared to Whites. In South Carolina, heart disease deaths were 27% higher for non-Hispanic Blacks compared to non-Hispanic Whites in 2021.

African American South Carolinians were also more likely to have certain risk factors for heart disease, including hypertension and diabetes, as well as being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle.

“The disparities we see across our state in heart health outcomes are troubling, and we want to do everything we can to provide information, tools and access to resources that help all South Carolinians improve their heart health,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC director. “There are steps each of us can take to improve our heart health, and I encourage all of our residents to start at least one new heart-healthy habit this year.”

Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking are major risk factors for heart disease, and almost three quarters of South Carolina adults have one or more risk factor.

Tips for a healthy heart include: 

  • Stop smoking or vaping and using tobacco products.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular health screenings for cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Take your medicine (if applicable) as directed by your provider.
  • Manage your diabetes.
  • Eat a healthy diet that’s low in fat, cholesterol and salt.
  • Move more. At least 30 minutes, most days of the week can make a big difference.

“A healthy lifestyle is key to having a healthy heart,” said Virginie Daguise, PhD, Director of DHEC’s Bureau of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention. “We encourage everyone to take active steps to minimize or eliminate their risk factors, as these small changes can help make a big difference in protecting your heart health.”

According to the CDC, nearly half of U.S. women do not recognize that heart disease is a leading cause of death for women. That is why the first Friday of American Heart Month, Feb. 2 this year, is National Wear Red Day, which is part of the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” initiative. The public is encouraged to wear the color red this day to raise awareness about the impacts of heart disease and stroke, especially on women. Learn more at goredforwomen.org.

DHEC encourages all South Carolinians to start at least one new heart-healthy habit this year. To learn more about heart disease, visit scdhec.gov  or cdc.gov.