By Yan Kennon
Naval Hospital Jacksonville Senior Writer

February is American Heart Month - an important month in the fight against heart disease.  Heart disease is caused by plaque buildup in the walls of arteries, causing narrowing and blood flow restriction.

It remains the nation's number one killer for both men and women, taking the lives of about 715,000 Americans every year - approximately one out of every four deaths.  It can also result in serious illness, disability and decreased quality of life.  

"Everyone is potentially at risk for heart disease, but it is preventable and controllable," said Capt. Paula Chamberlain, Naval Hospital (NH) Jacksonville's director for public health.

"Controllable risk factors for heart disease include:  smoking, obesity and overweight, physical inactivity, diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Other controllable risks include stress, alcohol and nutrition." 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke) costs the U.S. $312.6 billion each year-to include the costs of healthcare services, medications and lost productivity.

"Making healthy choices such as good nutrition, weight management and exercise can significantly decrease the probability of heart disease," said Chamberlain. 

Chamberlain went on to say that non-active children are also at risk for heart disease,

"Research has proven that children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day to reduce the risk of developing heart disease."

National Wear Red Day®-a day to raise awareness for the fight against heart disease in women - is also held in February. National Wear Red Day® was began in 2003, when the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute took action against heart disease, a disease that kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.

As a result of their efforts, 21 percent fewer women are dying from heart disease and 23 percent more women are aware that this disease is the single most health threat to women.

NH Jacksonville's Wellness Center, located next to NAS Jacksonville's Fitness Center, offers a variety of health related classes, available to active duty, retirees and their families.

Classes include Healthy Heart, which teaches healthy lifestyles and cholesterol and blood pressure management; Choose My Plate, to provide overviews on losing weight the healthy way; ShipShape, an eight-week weight loss program (active duty and civilians); Sail A Weigh, a six-week weight loss program (civilians only); health fitness assessments; and, Tobacco Cessation, to assist smokers with quitting.

For more information, call the NH Jacksonville Wellness Center at 904-542-5292/5293.