|February is “Heart Month”
The heart is a wonderful muscle that seemingly never rests while beating more than two billion times during an average lifespan. During Heart Month in February, Herkimer County Public Health reminds us how important it is to take care of our hearts.
More New Yorkers die of cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke, than all other causes of death combined.
Coronary heart disease is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Coronary heart disease is usually caused by a condition called atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty material and a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of your arteries. This causes them to narrow. As the coronary arteries narrow, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop, causing chest pain (stable angina), shortness of breath, heart attack and other symptoms.
“Heart disease has a close relationship to lifestyle choices. Physical activity and healthy nutrition help assure that your heart will stay strong,” said Gregory O’Keefe, MD, of Herkimer County Public Health.
|Most common signs of a heart attack:|
• 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. This can occur with or without chest discomfort.
• Other signsBreaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness are other symptoms that may indicate the onset of a possible heart attack.
The New York State Department of Health (DOH) recommends people of all ages engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week.
“Poor nutrition can lead to many health problems, including high blood cholesterol levels, obesity and diabetes. Eating foods high in saturated fat (whole milk, full fat dairy products, butter and red meats), trans fats (food with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, such as some boxed cookies, crackers, doughnuts and margarine) or sodium (found in many processed foods) can increase your risk of getting heart disease.
“Replacing less healthy foods with more vegetables and fruits is an easy and enjoyable way to reduce fat, cholesterol and calories,” Dr. O’Keefe said.
The single largest contributor to the risk of having a heart attack is smoking. Smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack as nonsmokers, and they are between two and four times more likely to die suddenly from heart disease. Exposure to smoke in the home and at the workplace has also been shown to increase risk.
Men in their 40s have a higher risk of heart disease than women. As women get older, their risk increases so that it is almost equal to a man’s risk.
Many things increase your risk for heart disease. You are more likely to develop the condition if someone in your family has had it – especially if they had it before age 50. Your risk for heart disease goes up the older you get.
Men and women often have different signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Chest pain is the most common for both. Women are more likely to experience the less-known symptoms of jaw and back pain, nausea and vomiting.
Other people aren’t sure what is wrong and wait too long before getting help. Learn the signs, but remember this: Even if you are not sure it’s a heart attack, tell a doctor about your symptoms. Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives – maybe even your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1.