|Heart disease claims a life every 39 seconds|
|Friday, February 07, 2014 9:36 PM|
BY STEPHANIE GROVES
DELPHOS — Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U. S. for both men and women. The American Heart Association (AHA) reports 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day, an average of one death every 39 seconds. February marks American Heart Month and health professionals are encouraging each and every person to do a little something more for themselves to improve their heart health.
Allen County Department of Health’s Director of Nursing Becky Dershem said American Heart Month is a great way to raise awareness and it’s really important for people to exercise the changes they make now 365 days a year.
“The key is, people may feel like they can’t do it all,” Dershem explained. “The changes can be made in baby steps and they don’t have to do everything in one week. They can work toward a goal.”
The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD), which results from a process known as atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. The condition is caused by fatty deposits (plaques) of cholesterol building up in the inner linings of the heart’s arteries. The plaque blocks arteries, prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart and can cause heart attacks, angina, heart failure and arrhythmias.
A heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI) occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart is severely reduced or cut off completely by a buildup of plaque. When a plaque in a heart artery breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque and can block the blood flow through the heart muscle, which starves the heart for oxygen and causes damage or death to parts of the heart. The AHA reports that almost every 34 seconds, someone in the United States has a myocardial infarction.
The five major symptoms of a heart attack include; pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back; feeling weak, light-headed or faint; chest pain or discomfort; pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder; and shortness of breath.
Some health conditions and lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for developing heart disease. People can prevent heart disease by making healthy choices and managing any medical conditions they may have.
Start by eating a heart-healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fiber-rich whole grains, lean meats and poultry, fish at least twice a week and fat-free or 1 percent dairy products — low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars — is a way to help cholesterol levels. Get moving for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for a total of at least 150 minutes per week. Avoid tobacco smoke.
“People can walk a few more steps each day and add more fruits and vegetables to their diets,” Dershem explained. “Just adding a few more fruits to the diet and making small changes which people continue with, will make a difference.”
By adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, people can prevent and/or manage High Blood Pressure (HBP) — the “silent killer — which is a misunderstood medical condition. Of all people with high blood pressure, over 20 percent are unaware of their condition. The AHA recommendation for healthy blood pressure is a systolic measure of 120 or less and a diastolic reading of 80 or less. By keeping blood pressures in the healthy range, people are:
• Reducing the risk of the walls of blood vessels walls becoming overstretched and injured;
• Reducing the risk of having a heart attack or stroke; and developing heart failure, kidney failure and peripheral vascular disease; and
• Protecting the entire body so that tissues receive regular supplies of blood rich in the oxygen it needs.
Cholesterol, another factor in heart health, is created and used by the human body to keep people healthy. Seventy-five percent of cholesterol in the human body is produced by the liver and the remaining 25 percent comes from the foods — animal products — humans ingest.
There are two types of cholesterol; High-density lipoproteins (HDL), which are “good”; and low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are “bad.” HDL cholesterol helps keep the LDL cholesterol from lodging in the artery walls. A healthy level of HDL may also protect against heart attack and stroke, while low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women) have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. The lower the LDL cholesterol number, the lower the risk and experts recommend an optimal level of 100 mg/dL.
“People need to get enough rest and activity,” Dershem explained. “All of us have improvements we can make and we should be able to encourage each other through groups and work together to accomplish the same things instead of drifting alone.”
Weight management is an additional element to consider in the realm of heart disease. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7 percent) are obese. Better nutrition, controlling calorie intake and an increase in physical activity are the only way to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity places people at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, a precursor of type 2 diabetes — the very factors that heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Scientists have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and stress in a person’s life, which may affect the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Stress is a response to change and a person’s body reacts to stress by releasing adrenaline which causes their breathing and heart rate to speed up and blood pressure to rise. When stress is constant and the body remains in high gear, off and on for days or weeks at a time, that is when it becomes a problem and may cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
The key is to manage stress properly, which affects people in a variety of ways. Stress can cause physical and emotional signs and includes: feelings of anger, fear, excitement or helplessness; make it hard to sleep; cause aches in the head, neck, jaw and back; and can lead to habits like smoking, drinking, overeating or drug abuse. In addition, people may not even feel it at all, even though their bodies suffer from it.
For more information and resources on getting heart healthy, visit www.healthy.ohio.gov/.