February is Healthy Heart Month

Special to Atmore News

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. Heart disease, including stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined.
According to statistics, someone in the United States has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Every 60 seconds, someone in the United States dies from a heart disease-related event.

About 735,000 people in the U.S. suffer heart attacks each year. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.

Women and heart disease
Cardiovascular disease and stroke are attributed to 1 in 3 female deaths in the United States. Every 80 seconds, approximately one woman dies from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Many women don’t recognize that heart disease is her greatest health threat. Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease or stroke. Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and smoking. Ask your doctor if you have risk factors for heart disease.

Women’s heart disease symptoms
* No symptoms
* Dull, heavy to sharp chest pain
* Pain in the neck, jaw, throat or pain in upper abdomen or back
Triggers: physical activity or mental stress

The good news
“Heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions. Communities, health professionals and families can work together to create opportunities for people to make healthier choices,” said Donna Shanklin, regional Alabama Extension agent in Human Nutrition Diet and Health.

Prevent heart disease
* Watch your weight.

* Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.

* Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.

* If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.

* Get active and eat healthy.

Ways to improve your heart health
* Stop smoking! Research shows that a person’s risk of heart attack greatly increases with the number of cigarettes smoked. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day have more than twice the risk of heart attack than nonsmokers.

* Be active. If you live a ‘couch potato’ lifestyle – stop. Research shows that a person’s risk of heart attack increases with a lack of physical activity. Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement that expends more energy than is used when you are resting.

Park the car far away from the door. We all need at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Even so that doesn’t mean we have to do all 30 minutes at once. Three 10-minute walks or the equivalent, add up to our daily requirement.

Take a 15-minute walk break at work instead of a coffee break. Use a pedometer and keep track of how many steps you take. Studies have shown that people who wear pedometers walk more. The person who gets the most out of the use of a pedometer is the person who has a step goal (i.e., 10,000 steps per day).

Play outside with your children or grandchildren. Adults should be role models for active lifestyles and provide children with opportunities for increased physical activity.

* Make better food choices. Eat healthier foods. Educate yourself and make some small changes. For example, reduce the amount of bad fat in your diet. Bad fats are those that are frequently found in dairy, meat and other animal products. A diet high in fat often leads to high LDL cholesterol. If the body has more LDL cholesterol than it requires, the excess is deposited on the walls of arteries as plaque. Too much plaque and the arteries become clogged — a condition known as arteriosclerosis. When arteries in the heart become clogged, it causes a heart attack. Clogged arteries that lead to the brain can result in a stroke.

Donna Reynolds is with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.