Love Thy Heart!

SPECIAL REPORT—This year, an estimated 785,000 Americans will suffer a coronary attack and about 470,000 will have a recurrent episode.


While a disease like cancer often creates heightened concern among the aging population, it is heart disease that is the leading cause of death in the United States.  It is estimated that every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event and about one every minute will die from one.


The most common heart disease is coronary heart disease and often presents itself as a heart attack.  While heart disease is often hereditary, it can occur with anyone. Whether predisposed by genetics or simply by lifestyle, people at risk of developing heart disease or in the early stages of it can promote healthy heart practices by taking steps to both prevent and control factors that put people at risk.


Watch For the Signs.


While some heart attacks occur suddenly with great intensity, most start slowly with only mild pain or discomfort. Those being affected by a coronary attack may contribute the early symptoms to something like indigestion or simply be uncertain as to what to do and losing critical time before seeking professional medical attention.


Here are the most common signs associated with a heart attack:


-Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks are associated with discomfort in the center of the chest area. Pain or pressure may last for several minutes, go away and come back. Sufferers may feel uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.


-Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. People having a heart attack often describe pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.


-Shortness of breath. A person who is having trouble breathing is an obvious sign of bodily distress and may occur with or without chest discomfort.


Other signs can include cold sweats, nausea and/or lightheadedness.


Changing the Lifestyle.


The best course for heart disease is to prevent it in the first place or to fight it (once diagnosed with it) by reversing the negative factors with a more positive lifestyle. A healthy diet along with exercise can go a long way in either preventing or controlling the disease.


Changes in diet are perhaps one of the most important aspects of the fight against heart disease.  Some of the more simple changes to a person’s diet can be much easier than most people imagine.


-Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fats.


-Select fat-free, 1% fat and low-fat dairy products.


-Cut back on consuming foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and aim to eat less than 300 mg of cholesterol-containing foods daily.


-Reduce your intake of beverages and foods that contain added sugars.


-Avoid salt. Try to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day or less than 1,500 if you have high blood pressure or are at increased risk for it.


-Moderate alcohol consumption. If you drink, consume no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman or two if you’re a man.


-Try to keep your meal portions in check.


Most people should consult with their physician before undertaking any serious exercise program, however for most people taking a 20-30 minute walk each day can make a considerable difference in both overall fitness, cardiovascular health and weight control. The key is to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.


A Message To Women


Women should not mistakenly consider heart disease simply as a “man’s disease” because according to statistics, women account for 52.6% of the total heart disease deaths in the United States. In 2005 alone, 454,000 females died as a result of heart disease.


Younger women should also not discount their risk factors either. Many younger women may be surprised to learn that heart disease is the third leading cause of death among women 25-44 years of age and the second leading cause of death for those 45-64 years of age.


Making the Right Choice Now


Regardless of age or gender, adults should take heart disease seriously and take the appropriate steps to improve their lifestyle to reduce risk factors that may already be present. Parents and caregivers can also begin instilling the same healthy practices in their children’s lives, which may help them make the right choices, as they grow older.


Heart disease is serious, but for most people, it’s a disease that doesn’t have to be as deadly as the statistics show.  Learn more about heart disease and what you can do to combat the disease by going online to the American Heart Association at www. Americanheart.org or the Center of Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) for more information.