February Health Beat

“Karen’s Kolumn” is researched and written by Public Health Nurse Karen Dolley. We appreciate her support and willingness to share!

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to take care of our heart health?

February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. The four most common kinds of cardiovascular disease are heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and heart failure.

The purpose behind American Heart Month is to suggest lifestyle changes for improving quality of life, reduce the risk for heart disease, and empower all persons to take action in case of signs or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.

High cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity-overweight, diabetes, tobacco use, and exposure to second hand smoke are all risk factors associated with heart disease.

The chance for developing heart disease can be reduced with a healthier lifestyle including eating a healthy diet, exercising, smoking cessation, and avoiding second hand smoke exposure. Some suggestions include choosing lean meats and skinless poultry, selecting fat free and low fat dairy products, reading labels and choosing foods low in cholesterol, avoiding food and beverages with added sugar, decreasing/avoiding salt consumption, watching portion sizes, and drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation-1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men.  

It is very important to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Surprisingly, most heart attacks start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Most involve discomfort in the center of the chest described as “pressure,” “squeezing,” or “fullness.” Pain or discomfort can also be present in both arms, the back, the neck, the jaw, or the stomach. Shortness of breath may or may not occur along with sweating, nausea/vomiting, and lightheadedness. Women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

The signs and symptoms of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg usually affecting one side; sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding; sudden vision changes; difficulty walking; loss of balance; and sudden severe headache.

If you experience the signs or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately. Many beneficial medications and treatments must be given as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms for them to be effective.

For much more information and many useful tools visit the American Heart Association at www.americanheart.org or visit www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth.

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