February is National Heart Month
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the nation for men and women. Although more men have heart attacks, more women die of them. For comparison, though not to diminish the impact of breast cancer, heart attacks kill more than three times as many people as breast cancer.
How can you combat heart disease? Know your genetics/family history. Someone with a family history may be genetically predisposed to the risk factors, so that person might be advised notto shrug off a certain feeling more so than someone without a family history.
If you smoke, stop. Smoking is a major contributing factor to heart disease.
The girth of a person is a main indicator for a chance of developing heart disease. A man’s waist circumference should be less than 40 inches and a woman’s should be less than 35 inches.
Decrease your intake of animal fat, and increase your plant-based diet — in other words, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. It you have to have a piece of fried chicken or pork chop (I mean, I am a native Southern belle, and I get it), control your portion size. The piece of fried food shouldn’t be more than the size of a deck of playing cards. Cook with olive oil, not vegetable oil, and if you, too, were raised in the South, Granny’s lard is a no-no.
Decrease your sodium intake. Typically, we should consume about 2300 milligrams (mg), or one teaspoon, daily — including what we cook with. That pretty much knocks out any type of fast food. When grocery shopping, pay special attention to labels. Salt sneaks into our diets in soups, deli meats, bacon, and other various items. Read labels.
Exercise! If it’s been a while, check with your physician first, but do something you enjoy. If you despise a treadmill or the thought of a gym, go hiking, go swimming, walk longer and more habitually than you usually do. Find an exercise partner to hold you accountable and go with you.
Last, but certainly not least, know your blood pressure and if you have high blood pressure (hypertension), control it. Do not stop your blood pressure medications just because you feel better.
Signs and symptoms of a heart attack vary between men and women. Men are more likely to have the crushing chest pain often thought of when people think of a heart attack. Sweating, arm pain, nausea, vomiting, even a toothache could be signs. It’s best not to have a wait-and-see attitude. Call 9-1-1. Don’t attempt to drive yourself and don’t have a loved one drive you to a hospital. The ambulance responders are trained to transmit your information to the hospital so the hospital is ready for your arrival, and they may possibly start lifesaving measures so no time is lost.
Learn CPR. The new approved method of adult CPR no longer involves giving breaths. It is called “Hands Only CPR.” You must initiate CPR (compressions being the most important) to preserve brain tissue during cardiac arrest, which is sure to follow an untreated heart attack.
Free Heart Health Screenings will include a total lipid profile and are available every Tuesday during the month of February from 8:00 a.m. to noon in Mission’s Heart Tower lobby. Call 213-7160 to schedule your free screening.
Dana Davis Blake is a nurse and Health Heart outreach coordinator at Mission Hospital.