"Ask the health expert": Take steps to reduce risk for heart disease
Kent Winkler, MD is a double board-certified Cardiologist with the Visiting Specialist program at Page Hospital.
Heart disease affects 13.5 million Americans and annually causes nearly fifty percent of all deaths in the United States. Cardiovascular disease includes conditions affecting the structures and functions of the heart. Both coronary artery disease and vascular disease are included in these alarming statistics. Studies show that a sedentary lifestyle, dangerous long-term eating habits and family history are the main causes of heart-related problems. That means people who are overweight, smoke and/or drink, do not get enough exercise, lead a stressful existence and do not get enough sleep are prime targets for early death.
The best way to begin is to find out about your own body by learning the normal levels of your vital signs. If it has been awhile since regular physical activity, a check-up is needed to get a baseline of where to start from. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that getting cholesterol levels, blood pressure, BMI, waist circumference and hemoglobin A1c checked once a year will create a history and help to foresee problems before they cause a life-threatening event.
Learning the warning signs of a heart attack and when to get help can also make a difference. The AHA lists warning signs of a heart attack as: chest pains but only some feel like the "movie heart attack," most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Women may also experience other symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea and back, neck or jaw pain. It is important not to wait too long to get help if you suspect something isn’t right because every minute counts. Call 911 instead of thinking you can make it because you will also receive treatment faster.