Cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death. It results in 17.9 million deaths each year, and that number is expected to increase to 23.6 million by 2030. Originally established in 1964, American Heart Month is meant to raise awareness and encourage Americans to improve their heart health. Making small changes to your diet, managing stress, and adding physical activity to your daily routine can help lower your risk. With education and action, about 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases might be prevented.


To discuss the importance of American Heart Month and break down risk factors that contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, our February #UMichChat brought together four experts from Michigan Medicine’s Frankel Cardiovascular Center: Kim A. Eagle, MD, director of the Frankel CVC; Rajani Aatre, MS, MSC, certified genetic counselor; Eryn K. Smith, MS, PA-C, senior Physician Assistant in cardiac electrophysiology; and Daniel Marcusa, fourth year U-M Medical School student. Eagle served as the moderator for this chat.



Cardiovascular disease comprises a wide variety of problems, including coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and atrial fibrillation. Some cardiovascular disease is genetic; small gene variations can impact the structure of the heart and its vessels. Men are at a higher risk for coronary heart disease, while women are more likely to have strokes due to atrial fibrillation. Our panelists identified high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, and age as some of the most common factors. Although genetic factors aren’t preventable, we can do more today with lifestyle and modern medicine than was previously possible.


Our panelists mentioned a healthy diet and exercise as two of the best ways to lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Exercise raises endorphins and contributes to weight loss when paired with heart-healthy eating habits. According to Eagle, research has shown that you can gain about four more years of life by doing 20 minutes of exercise every day. Marcusa mentioned the Central Campus Recreation Building (CCRB) and Intramural sports as campus resources that promote physical activity among students. In regard to healthy eating, it’s important to recognize that every diet needs to be personalized. General recommendations from our panelists were to eat foods high in nutrients but low in calories, utilize portion control, and avoid eating junk food after dinnertime to give your body time to process what you put in it.



At its peak, this chat had nearly 75 unique viewers, and the livestream garnered more than 13,000 video views in total. The post itself reached over 49,700 people and received 752 reactions, comments, and shares.



The most important takeaway from this livestream was that individuals have to take ownership of their own health. In addition, surrounding yourself with like-minded people makes it easier to develop healthy habits that will ultimately result in a lowered risk of developing cardiovascular disease.


If you missed this conversation, you can watch the entire livestream on Facebook. We look forward to facilitating more valuable conversations in the months to come.


This post was written by Mackenzie Francisco, UMSocial Intern. #StaySocial with her on Twitter @mackenzie_fran