LRH Encourages Steps to Prevent Heart Disease
Cardiovascular disease is common among men and women in the United States. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), one in three men and one in three women has cardiovascular disease, and the disease causes more deaths than all cancers combined. Cardiovascular disease comes in many forms, including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. The good news is that from 1994 to 2004, death rates from cardiovascular disease declined 24.7 percent, largely due to increased screenings and preventive measures.
Over half of the deaths caused by cardiovascular disease are specifically caused by coronary heart disease. Risk factors for heart disease include high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, smoking, diabetes, and being overweight. An individual’s response to stress may also be a contributing factor. Some scientists have noted a relationship between coronary heart disease risk and a person’s life stress, behavior habits, and socioeconomic status. According to the AHA, many risk factors for cardiovascular disease are common, preventable, and occur well before the onset of the disease itself. For example, abnormal blood lipids (high cholesterol) and high blood pressure often present early in life even before middle age, when preventative measures might make a big difference.
Lakes Regional Healthcare (LRH) suggests four activities to reduce a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. These activities include quitting smoking, eating a diet low in saturated fat, getting blood pressure checked regularly, and being physically active.
LRH Director of Nursing Joni Mitchell said, “The goal is two-fold. First, to be aware of your risk of cardiovascular disease and second, to take steps to decrease the likelihood of getting the disease or having an incident related to the disease.”
Being physically active and eating a diet low in saturated fat help to reduce cholesterol levels. Lowering cholesterol is an important preventive measure because too much cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition in which fat and cholesterol are deposited in the walls of the arteries in many parts of the body, including the coronary arteries feeding the heart. In time, narrowing of the coronary arteries by atherosclerosis can produce the signs and symptoms of heart disease, including angina and heart attack.
Getting regular blood pressure checks is important because it’s an indicator regarding the incidence of or risk factor for heart disease. Mitchell said, “If you have high blood pressure, it means the blood is having a harder time traveling through your arteries, which is a red flag for heart disease. If you don’t get your blood pressure checked, you may not know if you have a problem and may not take preventive measures.”
Dickinson County Public Health (DCPH) offers free blood pressure tests throughout Dickinson County each month. According to DCPH Manager Mary Dunleavy, “You don’t need an appointment for the clinics in the community. You can just show up and it takes less than five minutes. Otherwise you can set up an appointment and come into the Dickinson County Public Health offices and get your blood pressure checked that way as well.”
The next blood pressure clinics will be held:
• February 19 at the Great Lakes Mall in Spirit Lake at 1:00 pm
• March 5 at the Terril Post Office at 8:30 am
• March 5 at Spirit Lake Dinner Date at 11:00 am
• March 9 at Milford Dinner Date at 11:00 am
Those wanting more information about cardiovascular disease can contact their local family physician, call Lakes Regional Healthcare’s Cardiac Rehabilitation department at 712-336-8647, call Dickinson County Public Health at 712-336-2682, or visit the American Heart Association’s web site at www.americanheart.org.