Men Accounted for Nearly 60% of Polk’s Heart-Related Deaths in 2022


For decades, heart disease has remained the number one cause of death in the United States. June is National Men’s Health Month, and the Department of Health in Polk County wants to raise awareness about heart disease among men and how it continues to be a major health concern.  

So, what is heart disease? 

Heart disease includes conditions that affect the heart, including heart attacks and coronary heart disease. Heart disease was the leading cause of death in Polk County in 2022, and men accounted for 59.73% of total heart deaths. On average, men develop heart disease 10 years earlier than women do. 

It’s crucial that men are aware about the risks, symptoms, and preventive methods in order to manage their heart health. 

What are risk factors for heart disease in men?

There are some factors that men should pay more attention to, as they’ve been noted to increase risk for heart disease in men.  

Risk factors men can’t change:

  • Age: Men older than 45 are at higher risk.
  • Genetics: Heart disease in the immediate family puts men at a greater risk.

Conditions that increase risk:

  • Diabetes: High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control the heart. 
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure means the heart has to work harder to pump and that can weaken heart muscles over time.
  • High cholesterol: Too much LDL cholesterol can lead to plaque build-up in the arteries.
  • Obesity: Being overweight puts extra strain on the heart. 

Behaviors that increase risk:

  • Smoking: Smokers are 5 times more likely to develop heart disease.  
  • Poor diet: Diets high in sugar, fat, and salt increase risk. 
  • Physical inactivity: Lack of regular physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Excessive alcohol use: Too much alcohol use can raise blood pressure. 

What are symptoms of heart disease in men?

Some common symptoms in men include chest pain; chest discomfort; shortness of breath; pain in the arm, jaw, and back; fatigue; and numbness in the legs and arms. But it is important to know that men with heart disease can have no symptoms until they experience a serious event like a heart attack. In fact, half of men who die of coronary heart disease have no prior symptoms. 

So, how can men reduce risk?

Risk factors like age and genetics can’t be changed. But men can reduce their risk by managing health conditions and changing behaviors that increase the risk of heart disease.

Regularly monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels to manage conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, which can increase the risk of heart disease. In addition, taking medications as directed by a medical provider is important for managing these conditions. Maintain a healthy weight to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Making behavior changes is also key to maintaining heart health. Men who are smokers should quit smoking as soon as possible. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Exercise makes the heart stronger so men should try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week. Men should limit alcohol intake to a maximum of two drinks a day. If they have conditions linked to heart disease, they should talk to their medical provider about whether they should drink at all.

Heart disease is considered a lifestyle disease. This means men have the power to prevent and manage it, leading to healthier lives.About the Author: Dr. Joy Jackson, an internal medicine physician, serves the community as director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk).  For more information about DOH-Polk, visit  Follow DOH-Polk on Twitter at

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