Submitted by Carol Tomlinson, RN BS
Community Health Educator
Are You At Risk For Heart Disease?
February is National Heart month. According to the National Institutes of Health, every 34 seconds someone in the U.S. suffers a heart attack. Women account for nearly half of all heart attack deaths. Over a lifetime, heart disease kills 5 times as many women as breast cancer.
But what is a heart attack, exactly? A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is interrupted, usually due to a blood clot blocking blood flow in a coronary artery, one of the vessels that feeds blood to a part of the heart muscle. This blockage causes the heart muscle to be starved of oxygen and nutrients. When damage to part of the cardiac muscle happens, a heart attack occurs.
It is no secret that heart attacks can be fatal. However, every year thousands of Americans survive and go on to enjoy their lives. According to the American Heart Association, knowing your risks for heart disease is the first step in taking control of your heart health. Some risk factors can’t be controlled. However, many can.
Risks that cannot be controlled include:
- Age: As we age our risk of heart attack and stroke increases.
- Genetics: If anyone in your biologic family has had a heart attack your risk of having one is increased.
- Gender: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both genders. Women tend to have their first heart attack 10 years later than men. However, women are twice as likely as men to die within the first few weeks after a heart attack.
Risks that can be controlled include:
- High Blood Pressure: This is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Blood pressure can be managed with lifestyle changes such as, weight loss, physical activity and healthy diet. Medication may also be needed.
- Smoking: Smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart disease. However, your risk is cut in half within a year of not smoking.
- Lack of Physical Activity: People who get regular exercise decrease their risk of heart disease by 35-40%.
- Being Overweight: If you are overweight, reducing your weight by just 10-20 pounds can significantly reduce your risks.
- Poor Diet: A diet high in saturated and trans-fats, sugar and sodium (salt) increase your risk for heart disease significantly. Cutting down on processed foods and reading labels to increase your awareness of these ingredients will help you to reduce your risks.
- Diabetes: This condition doubles your risk of heart disease. Keeping your glucose levels under control and managing your other risks can help to lower your risks of heart disease and stroke.
While heart disease remains a leading cause of death and disability, by becoming aware of and managing your risk factors, you can significantly reduce your chances of heart disease.
HealthLink Littauer can assist you in managing these risk factors with numerous low-impact exercise classes, monthly health screenings, stress management programs and activities, smoking cessation, nutrition education, and more. Remember, your heart health is in your hands!
For more information, contact the American Heart Association at 518-626-8760 or www.heart.org, or call HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at email@example.com, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our NEW wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.