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Monthly Focus: February is American Heart Month

WOMEN'S MYTHS: "Heart disease is a man's problem." "I'm most likely to die of breast cancer."

MEN'S MYTHS: "Heart attack is a nice way to go, quick and painless." "There's nothing I can do about it, anyway."

THE FACTS: In every year since 1984, heart disease has killed more females than males. Heart disease kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer and all other cancers COMBINED! (498,863 to 266,693 in 2001)

Most heart attacks do not result in sudden, painless (or slow and painful) death. Most victims survive, go on to have a second heart attack, or become increasingly debilitated by congestive heart failure.

The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, (MRFIT), showed conclusively that incidence of heart attack can be decreased.

RISK FACTORS: Three you can't change:

  • AGE: Four out of five deaths occur in people over 65.
  • GENDER: Men have more, and earlier, heart attacks.
  • HEREDITY: Risk is higher in children of parents with heart disease, and in African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Asian-Americans.

RISK FACTORS: Changes in these five risk factors can save your life:

  • SMOKING: Cigarette smoking is the biggest risk factor for sudden cardiac death.
  • BLOOD PRESSURE: High blood pressure increases the heart's workload, causing it to enlarge and weaken.
  • BLOOD SUGAR: Two-thirds of people with diabetes die of heart or blood vessel disease.
  • CHOLESTEROL: Age, gender, heredity, and diet determine cholesterol levels that, when elevated, increase the risk of heart disease.
  • PHYSICAL INACTIVITY: Exercise can help lower cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, and body weight. As a result, regular moderate exercise lowers the risk of heart attack.

HOW ABOUT WEIGHT? Obesity increases blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and load on the heart. It is an indirect risk factor acting through all of these direct cardiac risk factors.

WHAT TO DO? Quit smoking! Control blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol. Walk two miles in thirty minutes every other day.

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Monthly Focus: February is American Heart Month

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