New York State Department of Health Recognizes February As American Heart Month

Heart Disease is the Leading Cause of Death in New York, Accounting for Nearly One-Third of All Deaths

Department Encourages Healthy Habits to Avoid Heart Disease and Reduce the Risk of Heart Attack

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 24, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health, in recognition of February as American Heart Month, is encouraging New Yorkers to adopt healthy habits that can prevent heart disease.

"Heart disease takes a tremendous toll, claiming the lives of far too many New Yorkers, and causing deep physical and emotional pain," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "By adopting a healthy lifestyle, that toll can be lessened. I encourage all New Yorkers to strive to eat nutritious food and snacks, engage in regular physical activity, and follow medication guidance that can prevent heart disease and a possibly fatal heart attack."

A new Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey report published by the Department found that in 2020, an estimated 1.1 million adults in New York reported they had a heart attack, angina, CHD, or a stroke. Some of the risk factors that can increase the chance of developing CVD are high blood pressure, being overweight or obese, tobacco use, high cholesterol, diabetes or prediabetes, poor diet/nutrition, and lack of physical activity.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in New York and accounts for 32% of all deaths statewide. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of CVD and occurs when there is a buildup of plaque in the arteries of the heart and leads to a narrowing of the artery. That narrowing can cause chest pain, and in some cases when the artery is completely blocked, it can result in a heart attack or even death.

Black Americans, who have historically been underinsured or uninsured and reside in underserved medical communities, are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes. Additionally, the highest rates of high blood pressure and diabetes, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, are found in New Yorkers who are non-Hispanic black.

Recognizing and controlling the health conditions and behaviors that put people at risk of a heart attack is key to preventing cardiac events. It's estimated that as much as 80% of heart disease and stroke could be prevented with the adoption of lifestyle changes and healthy habits. These steps are key to reducing or avoiding the risk of having a heart attack:

  • Improve nutrition by choosing healthy foods and snacks.
  • Don't start smoking or quit if you have.
  • Engage in regular physical activity. The U. S. Surgeon General recommends two and a half hours of moderate intensity exercise each week for adults and one hour of physical activity each day for children and adolescents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has additional information here.
  • Make lifestyle changes to include healthy foods and daily physical activity to help maintain or prevent weight gain. Even a modest weight loss can provide health benefits. American Heart Association tips for embracing a healthy lifestyle can be found here.
  • While managing chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, prediabetes, and diabetes, follow physician's instructions, including taking medications as directed.

New Yorkers who have had a heart attack can also take actions to prevent a future cardiac event. The CDC encourages those recovering from a heart attack to take part in a cardiac rehabilitation program, which can improve cardiovascular health by encouraging and supporting healthy lifestyle changes.

The New York State Department of Health and Health Research, Inc. have worked with the Capital District Physicians Health Plan (CDPHP) on a grant-funded initiative to develop and implement a virtual, home-based cardiac rehabilitation program in order to remove some of the barriers for people who want to attend a cardiac rehab program but may face transportation challenges or for people unable to access traditional programs. Depending on a member's health plan coverage, the program is provided to clinically qualifying CDPHP members for free or at a discounted rate.

To learn more about heart disease and how to prevent it, visit the Department's Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention website here.

Additional heart disease information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is available here.