American Heart Month

 

 

Some residents may be wearing red today for American Heart Month and National Wear Red Day. Organizations like LECOM Health and the American Heart Association are working especially hard this month to raise awareness about heart health and risk factors for heart disease. 

According to the American Heart Association, 121.5 million Americans have a form of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and it is most common in women and elderly people. 

Four out of five leading causes of death are related to heart disease in some way, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

"Heart disease and associated illnesses are by far the leading cause of death in Pennsylvania and in the United States,"  Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 47% of Americans display one of the main risk factors for heart disease: tobacco use, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Dr. Sarah Breon, a LECOM health care provider at Corry Memorial Hospital Rural Health Clinic, says that another big risk factor for heart disease is history of heart attacks in a patient's family.

"Family history plays a huge part," Breon said. 

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, people who meet the following criteria are at the highest risk for heart disease: women over age 55, men over age 45, a father or brother had heart disease before age 55 and/or a mother or sister had heart disease before age 65.

  • Breon recommends seeing one's primary care physician once a year for a routine wellness exam. 

According to Breon, cholesterol can be monitored with lab work and several other types of screenings can be done to watch for the onset of heart disease.

"If any of that comes back positive, then a lot of times doctors will take the next step and do an EKG," Breon said.

According to her, patients should check their blood pressure regularly and tell their doctor if they experience shortness of breath during everyday tasks. 

Pain in one's legs while walking is also a red flag, Breon said. 

"Sometimes, that can be a sign that your vascular system isn't working well," she said.

Palpitations, or the feeling that one's heart is fluttering, are also something a doctor should know about, as they could indicate a problem.

Breon said reducing caffeine intake or avoiding it all together can be beneficial for those who have trouble with their heart. This is true of alcohol, too, but one to two ounces of red wine at night can be heart healthy, she said. Breon recommends moderation in these things.

Breon said that smoking can also increase one's risk for heart disease because it causes a patient's arteries not to function properly.

Additionally, Breon emphasized the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and recommends regular exercise.

"I tell people 30 minutes every day, even if it's just going for a walk," she said.

Breon also noted that people should consume no more than 100 grams of carbohydrates in a day. Limiting carbs can make a big difference, but they should not be eliminated from one's diet, Breon said.

"We do need carbs, it's just we shouldn't be eating a lot of them every day," she said.

In support of the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" movement, teachers and students at Clymer Central School will be wearing red on Friday, Feb. 14. The group is spearheaded by Kathleen Whitmore, who teaches courses in health and physical education. 

In addition to wearing red, teachers will be donating loose change to the American Heart Association as part of a monthly dress down day.

Clymer's wear red day is sponsored by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). See a future edition of The Journal for more details.

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