Learn the signs, symptoms of cardiovascular disease

Feb 05, 2013

The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence (CCME) announced its support for American Heart Month, an annual national observance held during February to raise awareness of the risk factors, signs and symptoms and preventive measures associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CVD is the leading cause of death in the United States, and claims nearly 2,300 lives every day.

In North Carolina, CVD is the second leading cause of death behind cancer, recording more than 23,000 deaths in 2010, according to “The Burden of Cardiovascular Disease in North Carolina — September 2012 Update.”

Though often used interchangeably with heart disease, CVD refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels, which can lead to a heart attack, chest pain, or stroke. The most common risk factors that may lead to CVD or heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, tobacco use and family history. Although men and women have the same risk factors for being diagnosed with CVD, the signs of a heart attack can vary between genders.

“While men are more likely to experience a weighted chest pressure often described as feeling as though an elephant is sitting across their chest, heart attack symptoms in women tend to be ignored,” said Ross Simpson, Jr., MD, PhD, MPH, CCME medical director. “Women may experience a heavy chest pain, but they are also more likely to experience other warning signs including back or jaw pain, nausea and vomiting, fatigue and dizziness, sweating, and shortness of breath — symptoms that are often associated with less critical illnesses.”

Among North Carolinians, significant racial and geographic disparities exist regarding CVD risk. CVD yields higher premature death rates in African Americans than Caucasians. Among African American men, 43.2 percent of total CVD deaths occur before age 65, compared to 25.9 percent among Caucasian men; and 24.7 percent of African American female CVD deaths occur before age 65, compared to 10.4 percent among Caucasian females. Geographically, eastern regions of North Carolina have reported higher CVD rates than any other part of the state.

“A large part of our focus has been teaching the signs and symptoms of heart disease and sudden cardiac arrest, reinforcing healthy lifestyle choices, and sharing the preventive measures that can be taken to reduce CVD risk,” said Melinda Postal, CCME communications director.

CCME’s and HDSP’s work includes participation in the CDC’s national Million Hearts campaign to help prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years. CCME, HDSP, and other campaign sponsors are working together to reach this goal by raising public awareness of the clinical prevention ABCS of CVD — aspirin therapy, blood pressure control, cholesterol control, smoking cessation and reducing sodium intake.

CCME and its partners encourage patients and their families, health organizations, businesses, and communities to come together to raise awareness about taking simple steps for longer, healthier, and happier lives.

For more information about Heart Awareness Month, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.

 

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