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Healthy Heart


Heart Felt Facts

Susan Mizgala, RN, BSN
Public Health Nursing


According to the Centers for Disease Control, about every 25 seconds an American will have a coronary event. It is well known that heart disease is the number one cause of death in America. Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease and the chief contributor to heart attacks. About one American per minute will die from a heart attack. Some medical conditions put you at higher risk of heart disease. Knowing the warning signs of heart attacks can increase your likelihood of surviving one. Many factors contributing to heart disease are preventable. Knowing the steps to lower your risk of heart disease and taking those steps can put you at lower risk of a heart attack.

Some medical conditions that contribute to heart disease include arrhythmias, heart failure, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). Preventable conditions that contribute to an unhealthy heart include: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and secondhand smoke. Some people are at higher risk for certain medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure due to a family history of these conditions. It is imperative for those individuals to maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent developing the condition or worsening of the condition. Maintaining a healthy heart can greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Managing the health of your heart can be accomplished by simple lifestyle changes.

Most people think of sudden, severe, crushing chest pain when thinking of a heart attack. Symptoms are often much more gradual and mild. Sometimes the symptoms are so mild that those affected wait too long to get help. Symptoms that should not be ignored include: chest discomfort, soreness in other areas of the upper body (arms, back, neck or jaw), shortness of breath, abdominal pain (upper middle abdomen), sweating, nausea and dizziness. Chest discomfort can feel like heaviness, squeezing, fullness or pain. It can come and go or last for a few minutes. These symptoms apply to both women and men. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States.

To help prevent heart disease, the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both. Exercise should include anything that increases your heart rate and burns calories. A healthy diet is a good tool to fight cardiovascular disease. You can make smart choices in your diet for long-term benefits to your heart. Obesity is a major factor in many health conditions. Obesity can lead to high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. The risk of heart disease due to obesity can be reduced by losing weight. To lose weight calories burned need to exceed calories taken in. Losing weight can be accomplished by getting active and modifying your diet. Smoking increases the risk of many heart diseases and contributes to premature death. Benefits of quitting tobacco can be seen regardless of years smoking. Smoking, in combination with other risk factors, will greatly increase the risk of developing heart disease. There are numerous benefits to quitting tobacco and many support groups available.

As previously mentioned, those with a family history of diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension are at higher risk of developing these conditions which can affect the heart. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes. Diabetes can cause high levels of blood sugar. It is treatable through medication, diet and exercise. Cholesterol is an important part of a healthy body, but too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. To keep your cholesterol under control The American Heart Association recommends that you eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat, maintain a healthy weight, and stay physically active. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the single most significant risk factor for heart disease. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke and even death. Managing stress, eating a low fat/low salt diet, keeping physically active and avoiding tobacco and too much alcohol can reduce your risk of hypertension. Those who are predisposed to hypertension and develop it despite following a healthy heart lifestyle may need to take medication to control blood pressure.

If you need further information, please visit www.americanheart.org External Link, Opens in New Window. If you think you are having a heart attack, do not hesitate, call 911. If you would like assistance in quitting tobacco or need to speak with a Dietitian, please call Public Health Nursing, Clark Hall, at (315) 772-6404.