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December 06th, 2021
Healthy Lifestyles

hearthealthyHeart disease is a formidable foe. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease accounts for nearly 25 percent of all deaths in the United States each year. 

Issues relating to the heart affect both men and women, and an estimated 15 million adults in the U.S. have coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease. And heart disease is not exclusive to the United States, as the Heart Research Institute says that every seven minutes in Canada someone dies from heart disease or stroke.

Such statistics are disconcerting, but they can serve as a wake-up call that compels people to prioritize heart health. Fortunately, heart disease is often preventable and people can employ various strategies to reduce their risk.

  • • Stop smoking right now. One of the best things to do to protect the heart is to stop smoking. The Heart Foundation indicates that smoking reduces oxygen in the blood and damages blood vessel walls. It also contributes to atherosclerosis, or a narrowing and clogging of the arteries.
  • • Eat healthy fats. When eating, choose polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats and avoid trans fats as much as possible. Trans fats increase one’s risk of developing heart disease by clogging arteries and raising LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Read food labels before buying anything at the store.
  • • Keep your mouth clean. Studies show that bacteria in the mouth involved in the development of gum disease can travel to the bloodstream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for blood vessel inflammation. Brush and floss twice daily, and be sure to schedule routine dental cleanings.
  • • Get adequate shut-eye. Ensuring adequate sleep can improve heart health. One study found that young and middle-age adults who regularly slept seven hours a night had less calcium in their arteries (a sign of early heart disease) compared to those who slept five hours or less or those who slept nine hours or more. 
  • • Adopt healthy eating habits. Changes to diet, including eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, can help you lose and maintain a healthy weight, improve cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure — leading to a healthier heart.
  • • Embrace physical activity. Regular moderate exercise is great for the heart. It can occur at the gym, playing with the kids or even taking the stairs at work.

A healthy heart begins with daily habits that promote long-term heart health. 

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reddressHeart disease might be seen as something that predominantly affects men, but women are not immune to this potentially deadly condition. In fact, doctors and healthcare professionals advise women to take serious heed of heart disease, which claims more female lives than breast cancer, other cancers, respiratory disease, and Alzheimer’s disease combined.

The American Heart Association  indicates that more women are now aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death among females than they were 20 years ago. While just 30 percent of women recognized that in 1997, that figure had risen to 56 percent by 2012. However, the AHA reports that only 42 percent of women aged 35 and older are concerned about heart disease. Initiatives like Go Red for Women in February help shed light on the threat posed by heart disease.

Here are some facts to consider.

  • • Roughly one female death per minute is attributed to heart disease.
  • • Heart disease affects women of all ages. In fact, the AHA says that the combination of smoking and birth control pills can increase heart disease risk in younger women by 20 percent.
  • • Mercy Health System says about 5.8 percent of all white women, 7.6 percent of black women, and 5.6 percent of Mexican American women have coronary heart disease.
  • • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost two-thirds of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.
  • • When symptoms are present in women, they are not like the stereotypical clutching of the chest that men experience. Heart disease symptoms in women can include upper back pain, chest discomfort, heartburn, extreme fatigue, nausea, and shortness of breath.
  • • Even fit women can be affected by heart disease. Inherent risk factors, such as high cholesterol, can counteract  healthy habits.

Women are urged to take various steps to reduce their risk of heart disease:

  • • Lose weight
  • • Engage in regular physical activity
  • • Quit smoking
  • • Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum
  • • Get cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly
  • • Make healthy food choices
  • • Lower stress levels
  • • Control diabetes

Taking charge of factors they can control can help women improve their overall health and lower their risk for heart disease. Women also should speak with their doctors about heart disease. Learn more at www.goredforwomen.org.  

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organdonorOrgan donation is overwhelmingly supported by the adult population of the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 95 percent of adults in the United States support organ donation. In spite of that, the DHHS notes that only 54 percent of U.S. adults are signed up as organ donors. That gap only highlights the need for education in regard to organ donation. Separating the facts and fiction surrounding organ donation might compel more people to sign up as donors, saving untold numbers of lives as a result.

  • • People with medical conditions can still be organ donors. Many people mistakenly assume that an existing medical condition precludes them from being organ donors. However, the DHHS notes that very few medical conditions would prevent people from becoming organ donors. Such conditions include HIV and active cancer. Transplant teams determine at the time of death if a donation is possible, so even prospective donors who have doubts can still sign up.
  • • There is no age limit for organ donors. The health and condition of the organs, and not their age, is what matters. In fact, the DHHS notes that the oldest donor in the United States was 93 at the time of donation.
  • • Religions do not prohibit organ donation. The DHHS notes that most major religion support organ donation, considering it a final act of love and generosity. Prospective donors who are uncertain if their religion supports organ donation can visit https://www.organdonor.gov/about/donors/religion.html for more information.
  • • Celebrity status, race or financial well-being do not dictate who receives organs. In the United States, a nationwide computer system matches donated organs to recipients. Blood type, geographic location and time on the waiting list are just some of the factors used to match donated organs to recipients. Race, celebrity status or financial well-being are never considered.
  • • Medical personnel will try to save organ donors’ lives. Some people fear that signing up as a donor might compel medical personnel to abandon lifesaving methods if they become ill or injured. But that’s not the case. Donation is not possible until all lifesaving methods have failed.

Organ donation is a selfless act that saves lives every day. Learn more at www.organdonor.gov. 

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