Heart disease has become a leading cause of disability and death in the Mid-South of America. Compared to U.S. averages, heart disease is far more common among people in the South. The facts and advice below apply to all
people with a heart health risk.
The risk of heart disease increases with age. Fat and cholesterol often build up in arteries as we age. Arteries may harden. Many seniors develop high blood pressure. Many older adults stop exercising. These problems take a toll on health and can lead to a heart attack. More than four out of five people who die of heart disease are 65 or older.
Smokers are more than twice as likely as nonsmokers to die from a heart attack. Second-hand smoke can also increase the risk of heart attacks for nonsmokers.
Men have a higher risk of heart attack than women. But a woman's risk increases especially after menopause.
Heart disease runs in families. Family members often have the same eating and exercise habits. It is not unusual for several people in the same family to be obese, have diabetes or have high blood pressure.
Genetics may increase the risk for heart problems. If one of your parents had heart problems, you may be more likely to develop heart disease.
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance in blood that increases heart risks. It often comes from food. After cholesterol builds up on artery walls, a heart attack may occur when a heart artery becomes blocked.
Inactivity increases the chance of heart disease. Physical activity can improve blood circulation and increase the oxygen in blood. Exercise can help control weight, cholesterol, diabetes, and blood pressure in some people. Too much body fat, especially around the waist and upper body, can force your heart to work extra hard. Diabetes can damage blood vessels. Nearly three-fourths of diabetics die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease. There are common signs of heart attacks. Chest pain and discomfort in the upper body are frequent complaints of men and women with heart disease. Shortness of breath with or without discomfort is also common. It is not unusual for heart attack patients to break into a cold sweat, even in cold weather. Women may be more likely to experience nausea or vomiting. When arteries are blocked, blood clots can prevent oxygen-rich blood from nourishing the heart. This can cause a heart attack. Clot- dissolving drugs can stop some heart attacks and strokes before they do a lot of damage. With the right emergency care, you can reduce the chance of disability and even save a life. Special clot-busting drugs must be given promptly at the hospital when heart attack and stroke symptoms first occur. What you should do:
Learn the signs of heart problems. Is there discomfort in the chest or upper body (arms, neck, jaw or back)? Is there shortness of breath? Some people might feel sick to their stomach, become dizzy or sweat, even when it is not hot. Other signs may be shoulder pain, shortness of breath and a tight feeling in the chest. When these signs happen, call 911 and get help quickly. Don't let a person deny the symptoms and convince you not to call for help. As a patient, do not drive yourself to the hospital. Move to a calm shady place if the sun is hot. Loosen tight clothing. Help the patient take any heart medicine, such as nitroglycerine tablets. While waiting for help, begin CPR immediately if someone is not breathing normally or cannot respond. If the patient is not allergic to aspirin, consider giving him one full-strength (325 mg) aspirin while waiting for emergency help. Get a good check-up. Ask your doctor if you should be taking low- dose aspirin to prevent blood clots. Manage your cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides. Take prescribed medicine. If you are overweight, get moving and control your diet. Even losing 10 pounds can reduce your heart disease risk. For diabetes, it's extremely important to work with your health care provider to manage it and control other risks. Control bad habits. Don't smoke. Don't drink heavily. Don't overeat. Don't be a "couch potato."