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  • February 2021 Matters of the Heart: American Heart Month Newsletter


Matters of the Heart

February is American Heart Month, a great time to learn more about heart disease, which causes one out of every four deaths each year in the United States. It also increases the risk of severe coronavirus complications.

At Health Edco, we offer a variety of innovative and creative heart-health teaching tools in our product section dedicated to heart health. Heart health, however, is impacted by a variety of lifestyle habits and health conditions, often in ways that patients and students do not fully understand or recognize. Health Edco’s diverse line of health education resources in multiple subject areas (such as alcohol, drugs, diabetes, nutrition, and more) help make the connection between lifestyle habits, certain health conditions, and heart health.

Read on to learn more about how lifestyle habits and health conditions can affect heart health and how Health Edco health education resources can help you bring that connection to life!

Substance Abuse

When people think about the abuse of substances such as drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, their first thought is usually of addiction, overdose, and (in the case of tobacco) lung cancer. However, substance abuse can also have profoundly negative effects on the heart, and misuse of most drugs can adversely affect the heart and blood vessels.

Cocaine abuse, for example, can hinder the heart’s ability to contract and cause inflammation of the heart muscle and aortic ruptures. Injecting drugs (such as heroin or crushed opioid pills) with contaminated needles and syringes can cause infection of the heart lining and heart valves (endocarditis). Possible complications of endocarditis include multiple blood clots, heart valve damage, heart failure, and death.

Great Health Edco health education resources that explain how drug abuse can damage heart health include our Drug Abuse Consequences 3-D Display, Anatomy of an Opioid Abuser 3-D Display, and Substance Abuse Identification Kit.

Our Anatomy of an Opioid Abuser 3-D Display features 3-D models
to explain the devastating and deadly effects of opioid abuse.

Heavy abuse of alcohol can also harm the heart. Excessive alcohol abuse can cause a heart condition called dilated (alcoholic) cardiomyopathy. In dilated cardiomyopathy, the heart’s pumping chambers (ventricles) become enlarged and thin. Weakened, the heart becomes less effective at pumping blood. Heart failure and sudden cardiac arrest can result.

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is just one of the eight consequences of alcohol abuse featured in our Alcohol Abuse Consequences 3-D Display.

In addition to lung diseases (including lung cancer and COPD), smoking can cause cardiovascular diseases (diseases of the heart and blood vessels). Most of these diseases are the result of atherosclerosis, the hardening or narrowing of the arteries. Atherosclerosis contributes to the most common type of heart disease, coronary heart disease. Also known as coronary artery disease, coronary heart disease develops when plaque (deposits of fat, cholesterol, and other substances) builds up on the walls of coronary arteries, causing them to narrow or harden. The narrowed arteries decrease blood flow to the heart, which can cause chest pain (angina). If plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form around it and drastically reduce or block blood flow in a coronary artery, resulting in a heart attack.

Smoking can contribute to atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease because it can damage the cells that line blood vessels, promote plaque buildup on artery walls, and increase the risk of blood clots, which can block blood vessels.

Our Smoking Consequences 3-D Display, Effects & Hazards of Smoking Folding Display, and SpinSmart™ Tobacco Wheel are just a few of our innovative teaching tools that highlight the harmful heart and artery problems caused by smoking.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is one of the most well-known conditions affecting heart health, and our heart health education section is filled with teaching models and materials that explain how high blood pressure can harm the heart, including our What You Should Know About High Blood Pressure Folding Display and our High Blood Pressure Consequences 3-D Display.

Our What You Should Know About High Blood Pressure Folding
explains the importance of blood pressure management.

High blood pressure puts extra force on artery walls, leading to artery damage. This damage can promote the development of plaque buildup on artery walls. As arteries narrow and harden because of plaque buildup, the heart has to work even harder to pump blood. High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for coronary heart disease and heart attack.

Like alcohol abuse, high blood pressure can also promote enlargement of the heart (cardiomegaly). When arteries narrow and harden, the heart has to work even harder to pump blood. The left ventricle (the heart’s main pumping chamber) can thicken and enlarge, hindering blood flow and increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.


Heart disease is the leading cause of death among adults with diabetes, and people who have diabetes are at increased risk for coronary heart disease and heart failure. When diabetes is not well-controlled, high blood glucose levels can encourage plaque buildup in the arteries, causing them to narrow and harden and increasing the likelihood of blood clots and heart attack. By promoting artery damage and plaque buildup, diabetes can also contribute to the development of high blood pressure, another condition that can damage the heart.

Our Effects of Diabetes Display depicts a heart attack, kidney
damage, and other complications of uncontrolled diabetes.

Our Effects of Diabetes Display and Diabetes Education Package are among our many diabetes education materials and models that clarify the link between diabetes and heart disease.

Nutrition, Obesity, and Physical Activity

Most people are aware of the role good nutrition and physical activity play to help prevent obesity, but they may not fully appreciate how diet and physical activity affect the heart. We have many unique educational materials and models in our sections dedicated to nutrition, physical activity, and obesity that bring the connection between heart health and lifestyle habits into focus.

The A Day’s Worth of Fat Display highlights
how saturated fat can affect heart health.

For example, A Day’s Worth of Fat is a simple model that provides a powerful message about the relationship between dietary fat and heart health. The heart-shaped model contains simulated blood and 100 grams of fat, the approximate amount of fat consumed by a person on a 2,200-calorie diet with 40 percent of daily calories from fat. The model serves as a great way to introduce the importance of limiting total fat intake to 20 to 35 percent of total daily calories and to limit saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of daily calories. Too much saturated intake is associated with increased levels of LDL cholesterol (sometimes called “bad” cholesterol), which can contribute to plaque deposits on artery walls. Health Edco nutrition education resources such as our Fat Chance™: A Closer Look at Fast Food Display and Daily Saturated Fat Checker™ offer unique and interactive ways to teach the importance of limiting intake of saturated fat.

Our Stealthy and Unhealthy™ Sodium Display offers a unique
way to show how much sodium is in many “healthy” foods.

Excess sodium consumption and added sugar intake are also associated with adverse effects to cardiovascular health. Our Stealthy and Unhealthy™ Sodium Display is a fun way to raise awareness of the link between sodium consumption and elevation in blood pressure. And, our Cold Case™: The Facts Against Sweetened Drinks Display helps viewers understand how much sugar they may be consuming while explaining that too much added sugar may increase the risk of dying from heart disease.

In addition to aiding people in maintaining a healthy weight, which is important for heart health, physical activity strengthens the heart, helps maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels, and helps manage blood pressure. Teaching tools like our SpinSmart™ Physical Activity Wheel and Exercise Facts Folding Display clarify the heart-health benefits of physical activity and encourage movement.


When the body is exposed to stress, it increases stress hormones that can temporarily increase blood pressure, heart rate, and blood glucose. Overexposure to stress hormones may increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Educational resources in our stress management section, such as our Stress & You Folding Display and Stress Booklet, emphasize the importance of stress management for better health.

Learn More

We can all take certain steps to help protect our hearts, including managing blood pressure and cholesterol; controlling diabetes if you have it; being physically active; maintaining a healthy weight; eating a healthy, well-balanced diet; avoiding smoking and all tobacco products; and managing stress.

For health education resources that offer creative ways to teach about cardiovascular health, visit our heart health section. You can also find educational resources that teach how other factors (such as nutrition, physical activity, and smoking) affect heart health in our sections dedicated to nutrition, physical activity, obesity, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, diabetes, stress management, and more!

©2021 Health Edco®