February is National Heart Month. During this month, we should all refresh our understanding of heart disease and what we can do to prevent it.
Thirty-four percent of all deaths in the United States are from heart disease. But 10 years ago, the number was even higher. Yearly deaths from heart disease have dropped from 1.1 million to 831,000 over the last 10 years.
Despite new technology and better understanding of what causes heart disease and how to treat it, there are still 81 million people in the country with some form of heart disease. In addition:
• 73 million have high blood pressure.
• 18 million have coronary artery disease.
• 8.5 million have had a heart attack.
• 10 million have chest pain that indicates poor blood flow to the heart muscle.
• 6 million have had a stroke.
• Another 6 million suffer from heart failure.
The World Health Organisation estimates that if every American lowered his or her cardiovascular risk factors to acceptable levels, there would be 370,000 fewer deaths each year from heart disease.
So what are cardiovascular risk factors and how do we reduce them to normal levels?
Cholesterol: For every 1 percent decrease in your cholesterol level, you lower you risk of death from heart disease by 1 percent. Exercise and a healthy diet can help lower cholesterol levels.
Blood Pressure: High blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. One major contributor to high blood pressure is salt intake. Try cutting back on the salt you eat. Cook with it, but don’t put it on the table. Daily exercise and weight loss will also decrease your blood pressure.
Smoking: Smoking increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Talk with your doctor, who can refer you to several programs designed to help smokers stop smoking.
Physical Activity: Regular physical activity does more to improve your overall health than any pill your doctor can give you. It’s good for your heart and circulation. Try to find 30 minutes each day that you can dedicate to some form of physical activity.
Obesity and Diabetes: As we get older, and we add a few extra pounds, we are all at greater risk of developing diabetes, which increases cardiovascular risk. A healthy diet and daily exercise will help lower your weight and blood sugar.
Finally, talk with your primary care provider. If you have a cardiologist, talk with him or her. Attend educational events. Read information you see in the newspaper or in your doctors’ offices. Do as much as you and your family can to reduce your cardiovascular risk. Share what you learn with your neighbors and friends. Work together to build a healthier community and to fight heart disease in your daily life.
Robert Rosenblatt and family nurse practitioner Joan Eckert prepared this essay on behalf of the physicians and providers of Finger Lakes Cardiology Associates, Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic.
Source: Posted Feb 18, 2010
By Dr. Robert Rosenblatt and Joan Eckert.