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DOH-Pasco Encourages Commitment to a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle for American Heart Month

By Melissa Watts

February 06, 2019

Pasco County, Fla.— February marks the beginning of American Heart Month, a federally designated month that is a great way to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and commit to a healthy lifestyle. By making lifestyle changes and eliminating their risk factors, Floridians can help fight one of the deadliest diseases in the state and the nation among both men and women – heart disease.

National trends show heart disease death rates are declining more slowly than they have in the past, especially among adults ages 35 to 64. In many communities across the U.S., death rates are increasing among adults in this age group. Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, tobacco use and high cholesterol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that roughly half of all Americans have at least one of these three risk factors.

In Pasco County during 2017, approximately one in every five deaths was due to heart disease. Even adjusted for age, heart disease has the second highest death rate in the county (154.7 per 100,000), only behind cancer. One potential cause for this may be the number of smokers in Pasco County.

“Unfortunately, smoking continues to be one of Pasco County’s leading unhealthy behaviors, effecting poor health outcomes for our county residents,” said Health Officer Mike Napier. “We have to do a better job of convincing children and adults that smoking is not only a nasty habit, it affects your life.”

According to self-reported 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data, nearly one-quarter (23.3%) of Pasco County adults identify as current smokers. This is significantly higher than the statewide average (15.5%). Promotion of healthy habits like eating more fruits and vegetables, quitting smoking, and exercising more can all help reduce the burden heart disease places onto our community.

In 2018, the Florida Department of Health was awarded a 5-year grant to create a Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for WOMen Across the Nation (WISEWOMAN) program, and DOH-Pasco’s Florida Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program was selected to launch the program in Florida. The WISEWOMAN program helps women understand and reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke and promotes lasting heart-healthy lifestyles.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death of women in the United States, per the CDC, accounting for one in every four deaths. Although the services provided by each of the WISEWOMAN programs vary, all are designed to promote lasting heart-healthy lifestyle changes. These evidence-based approaches help women improve and control high blood pressure, maintain healthy eating behaviors, increase physical activity, and quit smoking to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.

Administered through CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP), the WISEWOMAN program operates in states and tribal organizations that participate in the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP), which helps ensure women participating in the NBCCEDP receive a full range of health services. For more information on the WISEWOMAN program, go to

DOH-Pascoreminds Floridians of the five steps they can take to improve their heart health:

  • Quit Smoking: Cigarette smoking or using tobacco greatly increases your risk for heart disease;
  • Increase your physical activity: Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels;
  • Control your blood pressure: High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so you need to make sure to have it checked on a regular basis;
  • Know your cholesterol: Your health care provider should test your blood levels of cholesterol at least once every five years; and
  • Eat heart healthy foods: Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.

Contribute to the prevention of heart attacks and strokes throughout Florida. Visit to learn more about other resources that can be used to prevent heart disease.