September 29 is World Heart Day (WHD), an annual day observed around the world to help raise awareness for cardiac disease and prevention. World Heart Day was established by the World Heart Federation (WHF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1999. Originally, it was observed on the last Sunday of the month, but after 2011 it was officially moved to September 29. In total, more than 90 countries observe World Heart Day.
Every year, the WHF chooses a theme for World Heart Day. Past themes include “Share the Power” and “My Heart, Your Heart.” The theme of 2022 is “Use Heart for Every Heart.” In other words, we should use our hearts to reach (and save) other people’s hearts.
The WHF also sponsors the assembly and dissemination of information on WHD, including lectures, podcasts, digital marketing campaigns, flyers, and more.
Many organizations hold events like concerts, walks, talks, marathons, and fitness sessions to help raise awareness on World Heart Day. Some landmarks and famous buildings choose to color their exteriors red as a way of showing support and spreading awareness.
Heart Disease Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of adult death in the United States. That amounts to approximately 697,000 fatalities in the U.S.—one in every five. Coronary heart disease is responsible for more than half of all cardiovascular-related deaths, killing approximately 380,000 people per year.
Heart disease costs the U.S. approximately $230 billion each year in terms of health care, medications, and lost productivity.
Globally, WHO names cardiovascular diseases as the number one cause of death, leading to about 18 million lives lost annually. WHO statistics show that more than four out of five cardiovascular disease deaths are caused by heart attacks and strokes.
Heart Disease Risk and Prevention
WHO unequivocally states that there are preventative measures everyone can take against cardiovascular disease, especially those who are high risk. Factors that put someone at a high risk for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Unhealthy eating
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive alcohol consumption
While there is nothing we can do about the genes we inherit, there is a lot we can do about behaviors associated with heart disease. People who drink a lot of alcohol and smoke can stop. People who don’t exercise or eat lots of fatty and salty foods can start to change their lifestyle accordingly. People who are obese can lose weight.
It’s true—changing these behaviors and attaining these goals is hard. Very hard. But no one said that lowering your risk of heart disease would be easy. In fact, like most things in life, it’s the really-worthwhile achievements that are hardest to reach. Keeping the greater goal in mind—preventing heart disease and premature death—can help you overcome the daily obstacles.
Fighting Heart Disease at the Institutional Level
We all have our work cut out for us, but changes also need to take place at the institutional level. Healthcare systems around the world need to be accessible and affordable—and unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Without proper health care options, people with minor health issues won’t receive the necessary support, and these issues will blossom into full blown medical crises. This is also a goal of World Heart Day—to push governments and medical institutions toward making heart health a priority.
Awareness Is the Cornerstone for All Healthy Behavior
The only way to know if you’re at high risk and the only way to know what precautions and lifestyle changes can prevent heart disease is to be aware of cardiovascular disease. WHD brings heart disease awareness to the forefront so that we can understand what we’re up against and that we are not powerless.
How Can You Spread Awareness this World Heart Day?
There are many things you can do, but they all depend on how passionate you feel about the cause and how comfortable you are in going public. In many cases, it’s worthwhile to play to your strengths. For example, if you’re a great organizer, you can arrange an awareness event. If you’re a great orator, you can speak about the event. If you enjoy exercise, you can join a WHD walk or marathon. If you’re on any social media platform, you can share why WHD is so important and what it means to you.
If you want to continue spreading awareness throughout the year, you can join a local health organization, volunteer, or get together with friends for monthly sessions covering different topics in heart health. With such a broad issue, there is a lot of room for creativity. However, the prerequisite to any awareness activity is to bring the issue close to your heart.