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February focus on heart health

February 14, 2010
By CATHY BROWNFIELD, Family Recovery Center

Happy Valentine's Day! February is American Heart Month, and the focus is heart health. Given that heart disease is the number one cause of death, maybe we aren't taking the matter seriously enough.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) advises that approximately 81 million American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease: stroke, CHF (Congestive Heart Failure), high blood pressure, heart birth defects, hardening of the arteries or other diseases of the circulatory system. One in three women have some form of cardiovascular disease. In 2004, one female per minute died from cardiovascular disease. That's more than cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer's, accidents and diabetes combined.

There is a lengthy list of causes of heart disease. Has your doctor recommended blood work to check out things like cholesterol and triglycerides and you just set the paperwork aside and went on with the daily business of your life because you feel fine? If you follow through on his/her recommendations, you might save yourself a health crisis down the road. Do you have high blood pressure? Diabetes? Are you overweight, even obese? Do you use tobacco products or breathe second hand smoke?

You may say that everyone is going to die sometime, and that is true, but think about your loved ones for a minute. Imagine their reactions if you suffer a massive heart attack. Imagine their broken hearts if you would die from that heart attack. When you think about the people you love and who love you, what's that do to your perspective? Are you motivated to take better care of yourself? Do you have a long list of things you want to do before you die? Do you know the signs and symptoms for a heart attack?

-Chest discomfort that lasts longer than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

-Pain or discomfort in one or both of the arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

-Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

-Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

What can you do to take better care of your loved ones and yourself? A healthy diet is a good start. Don't skip meals, and eat more nutritionally sound foods like lean meats and poultry, no skin, no saturated and trans fat. Avoid partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and foods high in dietary cholesterol (less than 300 mg daily). Consume less beverages and foods with added sugars like high fructose corn syrup. Cut down on salt use. Eat smaller, healthier portions. Just because it tastes good doesn't mean you should eat more. And it's not just diet and nutrition. Daily physical activity helps prevent heart disease.

In 2006, heart disease was the cause of death for nearly 316,000 women. It is the leading cause of death in women age 65 and older, second leading cause in women age 45-65, and third in women aged 25-44.

Also in 2006, heart disease was the cause of death in 315,706 American men. The average age for a first heart attack for men is 66. Half of the men who have heart attacks when they are under age 65 will die within eight years. Men experience 70-89 percent of sudden cardiac arrests.

Today is Valentine's Day. Love yourself enough to take care of your heart so you can share the gift of life with the people you love. Love them enough to take care of you and them.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. For information about our education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related family issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail,



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