Heart Month: Are You at Risk for Heart Disease?
- February is American Heart Month. It’s important to find out if we, and our family members, are at risk for heart disease.
- People with conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are at an increased risk for heart disease. It’s important to make lifestyle changes to avoid the potential risk factors that are controllable.
- There are a number of studies that link childhood obesity to future cardiovascular problems — including hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery disease. Parents should incorporate lower calorie foods, like fruit and vegetables, and limit snacks and beverages with high sugar content. They should also encourage their children to increase their physical activity.
February is American Heart Month, and in honor of this observance, it’s important to find out if you and your family members are at risk for disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It affects both men and women of all races and nationalities. Although heart disease is one of the most costly and widespread health problems, it is among the most preventable.
“People with conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are at an increased risk for heart disease,” says Samuel R. Ruby, M.D., chief of the Section of Cardiology at Taylor Hospital. “Those who smoke, don’t exercise, have a poor diet, are obese or drink excessive amounts of alcohol are also at an increased risk. Genetics can also play a role in people’s risk of getting heart disease.”
It’s important to make lifestyle changes to avoid the potential risk factors that are controllable.
“Maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, don’t smoke and limit alcohol intake,” says Ancil Jones, M.D., chief of the Division of Cardiology at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “By doing this, you can lower your risk for heart disease. Also, take your prescribed medication to help control your high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.”
Even though adults may not always think about controlling the risk factors of heart disease in our children, cardiologists encourage men and women to set good examples and make sure that their children are receiving proper nutrition. This may be able to help lower their risk for heart disease as adults.
“There are a number of studies that link childhood obesity to future cardiovascular problems — including hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery disease,” says Domenic Pisano, D.O., chief of the Division of Medicine at Springfield Hospital. “Parents need to be informed about good nutrition and encourage there children to limit empty calories such as soda and treats. Try to incorporate lower calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables, and increase physical activity.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends that kids over 2 years of age get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.
“For those uncontrollable risk factors of heart diseases caused by genetics, it’s important that you give a complete family history to your physician,” says Edward LaPorta, M.D., chief of the Section of Cardiology at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. “Also, make sure to have your blood pressure taken and have other check-ups done on a regular basis.”
It’s important to know the signs of a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association, some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the “movie heart attack,” where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Even if you’re not sure that you are experiencing a heart attack, get yourself checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don't wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number.
For information about Crozer-Keystone Health System’s cardiovascular services or to request an appointment with a cardiologist, call 1-866-95-PULSE (1-866-957-8573) or visit http://ckheart.crozer.org.