Care for your heart this FebruarySpecial to The Mountaineer
Each year, the month of February is filled with images celebrating Valentine’s Day. The heart-focused theme doesn’t have to end on the holiday, however. February is designated “American Heart Month” by the American Heart Association and has been for nearly 50 years. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, equal to 2,200 deaths per day.
Nicholas “Dr. Nick” Yphantides, M.D., M.P.H., Medical Editor for TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, offers the following recommendations to proactively promote a healthier heart — and ultimately, a better quality of life.
• Signs of a Heart Attack
First, know the common signs of a heart attack and what can be done to prevent such medical emergencies. If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. A quick response can save your life or someone else’s and prevent permanent damage to the heart muscle. The various treatments for heart attacks work best if they are given within one hour of when symptoms begin, or as soon as possible.
Common symptoms of a heart attack include:
• Unusually heavy pressure on the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
• Sharp upper-body pain in the neck, back, and jaw
• Severe shortness of breath
• Cold sweats
• Unusual or unexplained tiredness
• Unfamiliar dizziness or light-headedness
• Unexplained nausea or vomiting
It is so important that it is worth repeating — time is of the essence. The sooner emergency medical systems are activated during a heart attack, the better chances for health and survival.
• Know the Facts
Some conditions and lifestyle factors can put you at a higher risk for developing heart disease and having a heart attack. Genetics can also have a significant impact. For those who already know they have heart disease, the need to be proactive with health and lifestyle decisions is especially great.
These conditions increase the risk of a heart attack:
• Elevated cholesterol levels. There are “good” and “bad” forms of cholesterol. The body needs cholesterol, but when there is too much, the excess is deposited in arteries. This can lead to artery narrowing and heart disease. Different tests can determine your risk level and help you manage cholesterol levels.
• High blood pressure — A person can have high blood pressure with no symptoms at all. When the pressure of blood in the arteries is too high, it can cause damage and be a major risk factor for heart disease. Lowering blood pressure can dramatically lower the risk of heart attack.
• Diabetes mellitus — With diabetes, the body either doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, or both. Sugars build up in the blood, which is very dangerous to circulation. About 75 percent of all people with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease. It’s critical that people with diabetes work with a healthcare provider to manage the disease and control other risk factors.
• Other factors that can increase risk for a heart attack include smoking, eating habits (diets high in saturated fats and cholesterol and high salt or sodium in the diet —aim for less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium each day), a sedentary life, excess weight and alcohol use.
TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization. Founded more than 65 years ago, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind. TOPS promotes successful weight management with a “Real People. Real Weight Loss.®” philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise, and wellness information. TOPS has about 170,000 members — male and female, age seven and older — in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada. Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. Membership is $28 per year in the U.S., plus nominal chapter fees. To find a local chapter, visit www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.