February 11, 2013

Heart Disease is the number one killer of Americans

COLUMBIA, TN. — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease kills an estimated 630,000 Americans annually and is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One of every four deaths in the United States each year is attributed to heart disease and each year about 935,000 Americans have heart attacks.

Heart disease refers to different types of heart conditions. Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque (cholesterol deposits) collects in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Atherosclerosis is the condition where so much plaque collects that it causes the arteries to narrow. The good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent heart disease. Choosing a healthy diet and exercising regularly are among them.

Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease so maintaining a healthy weight is a wise choice when it comes to protecting your heart. Eating healthy meals, including foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Limiting salt and sodium in your diet can also lower your blood pressure.

Physical activity also helps in maintaining good heart health. The Surgeon General recommends that adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. If you do have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, talk with your doctor about how you can work together to treat these conditions that can lead to heart disease. Monitor your blood pressure regularly and have your cholesterol tested at least once every five years. If your doctor determines medication is needed to treat any of these conditions, follow instructions carefully and faithfully. By practicing a heart healthy lifestyle, you can greatly reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

The signs and symptoms of a heart attack may vary by individual and by gender. Commonly they include:

  • Chest discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back, which can feel like an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain
  • Discomfort in other parts of the upper body, one or both arms, neck, jaw, upper back or stomach
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness

February has been designated as American Heart Month and Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) encourages everyone to take this opportunity to learn more about healthy heart practices, the signs of a heart attack and what to do if you or a loved one demonstrate any of these symptoms.

“If you experience any of these symptoms, immediately call 911. Emergency personnel are highly trained, can begin treatment in the ambulance and will contact the emergency department so that physicians are ready and waiting for a patient once they arrive. A quick response can prevent permanent heart damage and could save your life,” said Administrative Director of Cardiovascular Services Cathy Malone.