The heart of the matter

6 Heart stopping facts

Author: Will Dendis
Posted: Thursday, January 20, 2011

Valentine’s Day is widely regarded as a time to celebrate romantic love, despite its religious origins. With so much money and energy being spent on the affairs of the heart, it’s no wonder that February is also American Heart Month. While Americans are busy buying chocolates, flowers, and Valentines to express what’s in their hearts, the American Heart Association is sending thousands of volunteers out into neighborhoods to remind people to take care of those vital organs. Here are some important facts you should know.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death

This statistic applies to both men and women. Heart disease is responsible for more than one in every four deaths in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 631,636 people died of heart disease in 2006. Overall, men run a higher risk of heart attack than women, but that divide starts to narrow as women reach menopause.

Heart attacks come in different forms

“Many do experience the so-called “movie heart attack,with sudden pressure on the chest and  difficulty breathing followed by numbness on the left side, but many do not,” says Dr. Michael Cho, a cardiologist at Crystal Run Healthcare in Middletown and Rock Hill. This can be especially problematic for women, since symptoms can vary. “Women can present atypically,” says Dr. Cho, “shortness of breath, abdominal pain, feeling a little more fatigued; others don’t have any symptoms.”

It’s costing us billions

According to one study, in 2010 the staggering cost of treating heart disease in the U.S. was $316 billion. That total includes not only health care services, but also medications and lost productivity.

Stress kills

Medical researchers aren’t sure how it works, but the studies are clear. Emotionally stressed out people are at greater risk of developing heart disease. Some believe it’s due to a spike in the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, causing blood pressure to rise. Studies show that stress also effects how the blood clots, increasing the risk of heart attack. “I’m a big believer in the influence of stress and how it can ultimately affect the heart,” says Dr. Sharagim Kemp, a general practitioner with HealthQuest in Rhinebeck.

Sedentary lifestyle puts you at risk

According to the CDC, inactive lifestyles are being blamed for putting more people at risk of heart disease than any other cause. Studies show that 40 percent of Americans aren’t active enough. Even if you’re not overweight, you’re missing out on the benefits of exercise. It reduces your risk of obesity and diabetes while strengthening the heart and cardiovascular system. Experts say those who exercise regularly can expect to live longer than those who don’t.

Smoking hurts your heart

About 20 percent of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking, which raises blood pressure and causes inflammation of the arterial walls. The cancer risks of cigarette smoking are well known, but Dr. Cho says the effect on the heart is another matter.  “People don’t realize that smoking definitely is one of the major risk factors for developing heart disease,” he says, “as important as diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol.”

The good news is that some heart damage caused by smoking is reversible. Studies show that 15 years after quitting, an ex smoker’s risk of heart disease is similar that of a nonsmoker.

Americans at risk

Below is the percentage of U.S. adults with heart disease risk factors in 2005-2006.

Risk Factor      %

Inactivity         39.5

Obesity            33.9

High Blood Pressure   30.5

Cigarette Smoking      20.8

High Cholesterol         15.6

Diabetes          10.1

National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States 2008

Go Red for Women

People throughout the Hudson Valley are seeing red in February—quite literally—and it’s for a good cause. Red is being worn in support the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign to raise awareness about heart disease. It’s not just individuals who go red. Entire companies and even cities have pledged their support behind the movement.

Why go red?

The Go Red for Women campaign was born in 2004, after the American Heart Association(AHA) took a look at its statistics. The AHA found that 500,000 American women were dying each year from heart disease and  yet, women were not paying attention. Surveys showed that many of them wrote heart disease off as an “older man’s disease.” They failed to realize that heart disease is the number one killer of women. Since it’s preventable and its connection to women had been ignored, health organizations have banded together to specifically target women. The AHA adopted the red dress as the national symbol for this program.

Special events

Locally, there will be three events in support of Go Red for Women:

Special Presentation: Call to Increase Awareness

Date: Wednesday, February 2, 3:30pm

Presenter: Sandi Jeanette

Bon Secours Charity Health Systems

Location: The Promenade at Tuxedo Place

40 Hospital Rd., Tuxedo, NY

RSVP: Mindy Quinn, Director of Community Relations

The Promenade at Tuxedo Place

845-351-000, ext. 203

Friday, February 4 is National Wear Red Day

This observance is aimed at building awareness and inspiring action. Show your support by wearing red.

Luncheon and education forum

Date: Friday, Februrary 25, 10am-2pm 

Where: The Grandview in Poughkeepsie

Speaker: Dr. Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP

She’s known as “the doc who walks the talk.” Dr. Peeke is a nationally acclaimed expert and speaker in women’s health, fitness and nutrition. Her bestselling books include, “Fight Fat after Forty.”

In conclusion

So while you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, consider the heart of the matter. Medical experts are hoping you’ll remember the importance of maintaining heart health, not just for your own sake, but also for the sake of those you love.

In conclusion

So while you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, consider the heart of the matter. Medical experts are hoping you’ll remember the importance of maintaining heart health, not just for your own sake, but also for the sake of those you love.

Categories: General

Tags: heart disease,health

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