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For American Heart Month, DHEC Reminds South Carolinians to Live a Heart Smart Lifestyle

Feb. 1, 2023

COLUMBIA, S.C. – With February recognized as American Heart Month, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is reminding everyone how important it is to maintain positive habits that build a strong and healthy heart. 

American Heart Month is a national campaign that spotlights cardiovascular (heart) health. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America and worldwide, according to the American Heart Association and was the number one cause of death in South Carolina in 2021. It is also a leading cause of early death and disability. Although people older than 65 are at the greatest risk, heart disease is the second-leading cause of death for those 45 to 64 years old, third-leading cause of death for people 25 to 44 years old and sixth-leading cause of death for those as young as 18 to 24.

“The stress and isolation of the COVID pandemic has taken a toll on people’s mental and emotional health, and also on their heart health,” said Virginie Daguise, PhD, Director of DHEC’s Bureau of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention. “An increase in drug use, smoking and alcohol use as coping mechanisms combined with less physical activity during periods of lockdowns over the past few years can all contribute to an unhealthy heart. It’s incredibly important to make sure your lifestyle is supporting a strong heart.” 

Tips for a healthy heart include:

•    Maintaining a healthy weight
•    Regularly checking cholesterol and blood pressure numbers
•    Not smoking and limiting exposure to second-hand smoke
•    Limiting alcohol use
•    Taking medications as directed
•    Managing diabetes
•    Eating a healthy diet that's low in fat, cholesterol and salt
•    Exercising for at least 30 minutes most days of the week

Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking are major risk factors for heart disease, and almost three quarters of South Carolina adults have one or more risk factor. Additionally, African Americans face a higher risk of developing heart disease than Caucasians. In 2021, 3,223 African Americans died from heart disease statewide.

“Data shows heart disease is occurring in younger adults more often,” Daguise said. “This is partly due to risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure occurring earlier in life.” 

The first Friday of American Heart Month, Feb. 3 this year, also is National Wear Red Day, which is part of the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” initiative. The public is encouraged to wear the color red this day to raise awareness about the impacts of heart disease and stroke, especially on women. Learn more at

DHEC encourages all South Carolinians to start at least one new heart-healthy habit this year. To learn more about heart disease, visit  or



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