Boo! Monsters and goblins, step aside. Here’s what should really scare you today.
Horror movies. Ghosts. Haunted houses. Smashed pumpkins.
Whether your Halloween fear is a teenage prank or a black cat, I have some bad news for you: The simple facts of heart disease should scare you more. Here’s a closer look at some statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, (even during COVID).
About 659,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths, or one person every 36 seconds.
Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing 360,900 people in 2019.
Every year, about 805,000 people in the United States have a heart attack. That’s one heart attack every 40 seconds.
Strokes occur at the same rate (1 every 40 seconds).
The American Heart Association projects that by 2035, 45% of the U.S. adult population will live with cardiovascular disease -- costing more than $1 trillion per year.
Now if you’re like most people, you might be reading that list and thinking "Aren't these the same statistics from last year, and the year before and the year before that?" Tell me something new! I feel like I’ve heard all of this before. In fact, I’ve heard it so many times I’m kind of numb to the numbers. They never seem to change. Come February we’ll be wearing red dresses…again. Ho hum. The American Heart Association will come out with some new advisory on blood pressure or cholesterol goals. They’ll probably be stricter. Whatever. Same old, same old.
And to be honest, when I read this list even my eyes glaze over. These data have been the status quo for decades.
However, what’s really sad and what’s not effectively transmitted by a bulleted list of numeric facts is the human suffering that underlies them all. And as a physician, it’s the suffering that I witness repeatedly. Every 36 seconds a family loses a loved one. Every 40 seconds someone’s life is turned on its head out of the blue as they end up with heart muscle damage, a stent or bypass procedure and a medicine cabinet full of pills. A fully functional person potentially made completely dependent every 40 seconds. And it’s all so unnecessary!
After all, nearly all of this is preventable! 80% of it to be exact according to the CDC. The vast majority of heart and vascular events are mistakes! They should never have happened. The people experiencing them just haven’t had the right guidance as to what to do. And this is what I want to change.
My life’s work is to try and make a dent in the numbers that underlie all the avoidable suffering. This is why I wrote “Slay the Giant” and started Step One Foods. To help you avoid experiencing a devastating health event and to encourage you to help your loved ones do the same. Yes, at Step One we might sell food that helps lower cholesterol, but the whole effort is so much more than that. The bigger mission is to help prevent a disease that’s almost completely preventable and empowering you to achieve this -- without relying solely on medications and procedures (which are an incomplete solution).
So this Halloween, re-read those statistics, really take them in, and get a little frightened. And then use that fear to get motivated to do something about any risks you might have. Get educated and get going. Believe me – it truly is never too late to start! And you don’t have to get everything perfect all at once. Health and healing are a process.
The truth is that every sustained positive lifestyle change, however small, will gradually reward you with feeling better and living longer.
And Step One is here to walk with you on your journey to better health. You can count on us to try to help and always be here to cheer you on!
Get heart health tips and articles like this, delivered right to your email.
New articles every week.