Good lifestyle choices help to keep your heart healthy
BY Terra Cooney For Sun-Times Media
Multitask your way to good health: Park your stationary bicycle in front of the TV and catch up on your favorite shows while you exercise. | FILE PHOTO
Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the number one killer in the US and in Illinois. The latest Illinois figures of the American Heart Association (AHA), found that 34,054 deaths were caused by cardiovascular disease, or 33 percent of all deaths that year. An estimated 82.6 million American adults, more than 1 in 3, have one or more types of heart disease. Almost half are under the age of 60.
Symptoms and Repercussions
The risk of a second attack and the loss of life from heart disease are higher for women. Diabetes and cardiomyopathy, a stress-induced disease, are more potent for women as well. Furthermore, females more often experience overlooked atypical symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, which sometimes include vomiting or jaw pain. Overall, symptoms can be subtle, including decreased exercise tolerance, pressure in the chest, shortness of breath, neck pain, headache, fatigue and spiked blood pressure. Seek medical help for any of these unexplained issues.
"Cardiovascular disease is our own fault," stated Dr. Aga Silbert, MD, medical director of Provena Saint Joseph Hospital Heart and Vascular Institute's Women's Heart Center. Fortunately, the solution is somewhat simple. Regular exercise, eating right and avoidance of unnecessary toxins such as tobacco or an excess of alcohol and drugs can improve your chances of better heart health.
"It's the power of you," said Eileen Kelly-Hensing, MD, clinical cardiologist with NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) and Director of the Women's Heart Program. She cited a nurse's health study supporting the regimen, which found its implementation to decrease your risk by 80 percent.
"Know your family history and understand that you might be at increased risk because of genetic disposition," Silbert said. She believes the more we use genetic testing, the more we understand how to apply it in common medicine.
"One of the components of a healthy lifestyle is to keep an appropriate mindset," said Silbert. Though the body heals itself, we have to enable it to do so by putting our mind at ease. Kelly-Hensing agreed stress is a huge factor. The AHA assessment tool at mylifecheck.org will provide your personal health score and set a personal action plan.
Paving the Way for the Future
"One exciting area for the future for us at NorthShore is what we're doing with our intervention cardiology lab in treating valvular disease," said Kelly-Hensing. "If someone has a leaky or narrow valve, it used to be the only option was open heart surgery." Now, a less invasive procedure is used, where surgeons enter through the leg to open an aortic valve, or apply a needed clip. Many more innovations like the aforementioned procedure are being studied to decrease the numbers affected by heart disease in the future.
Spread the Word
The Women's Heart Center at Provena Saint Joseph's was created to help and educate women on heart health topics. At the center, Dr. Silbert's support group focuses on a healthy life style, heart disease and how to better serve your body.
NorthShore offers a women's heart program with screenings and a support group. Check your local hospital for something similar, and get encouraged to learn CPR.
Saint Joseph is working with the AHA on the Go Red BetterU Program as part of the Go Red for Women campaign where five contestants will win a redesigned life through a 12-week program of dieting, exercise and behavioral consultation.
On Feb. 3, show your support on National Wear Red Day, part of the Go Red for Women campaign. You can become involved by spreading the message, wearing red that day and participating in a Facebook challenge. Visit www.goredforwomen.org.