In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.
Take these preventive steps to stay healthy and ward off heart disease:
Stop Smoking. If you smoke, your risk of developing heart disease is 50 percent higher than a non-smoker. Tobacco users are at high risk for heart attacks and strokes. Current research has shown that breathing in second-hand smoke (from other people smoking) also increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Your health care professional can help you make a plan to quit smoking. For more information talk to your primary care physician and go to our Take Action link.
Maintain a heart-healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet will lower your chances of getting heart disease. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy protein, while cutting back on foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium will help you control your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol.
To tailor a healthy diet, consult a registered dietitian at the Center for Nutrition and Diabetes Management, make an appointment with the specialists at the Center for Advanced Weight Loss or see the Take Action link for more information.
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar and Type 2 diabetes
- Being overweight
- Depression and stress
Check with your primary care physician before starting an exercise program. If your doctor tells you it’s okay to exercise, your activity plan should include both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise. For most people 30 minutes of moderate activity each day is a reasonable goal.
You may want to join a fitness center such as one of the Hunterdon Health & Wellness Centers located in Clinton, Whitehouse Station and Lambertville. The Clinton and Whitehouse facilities are premier fitness facilities where patients and members can access Hunterdon Healthcare clinicians and staff for guidance in attaining optimum health and rehabilitation. The centers’ approach focuses on the overall wellness of its members, regardless of their fitness level. These hospital-based centers offer the professional staff and quality service you’ve come to expect from Hunterdon Healthcare.
Hunterdon Health & Wellness Centers integrate fitness, disease prevention, and health enhancement. Health risk appraisals, fitness assessments and access to professional staff help you reach your individual goals. Whether your health goal is to improve muscle tone, increase cardiovascular endurance, or continue on your road to recovery, the Health & Wellness Centers provide the latest equipment and services for your healthy lifestyle.
As a member, you will enjoy the benefits of a personalized health risk appraisal and fitness assessment prior to beginning your individually tailored program. Personal trainers are available to help you get started and stay motivated. You’ll also enjoy access to our health education staff and wellness classroom for programs focusing on a variety of health-related topics.
Heart and vascular education programs and screenings are held throughout the year at the wellness centers. Please check the Hunterdon Health & Wellness Center website for details and the community calendar of events.
Get regular preventive screenings. Screenings are invaluable in predetermining your risk for heart and vascular disease. In association with the Heart and Vascular Centers at Hunterdon Medical Center and Hunterdon Health & Wellness Center in Clinton, we offer free educational programs, as well as preventive screenings throughout the year.
Some of the offerings are listed below. Be sure to check the calendar of events for these special cardiovascular health screens.
- Carotid artery ultrasound
- Peripheral artery disease screening/ABI
- Blood Pressure
- Body Mass Index
- Risk Analysis for heart disease
- Your height and weight can be used to determine your Body Mass Index (BMI). Being overweight or obese puts you at greater risk for heart disease, heart attack, diabetes and other heart and vascular problems such as stroke and peripheral artery disease.
- Your total cholesterol level measures many types of fat in your body. A total cholesterol level of 200–239 mg/dL is considered borderline high, while a level of 240 mg/dL and above is considered high.
- LDL-C is considered “bad cholesterol.” If your LDL is higher than 130 mg/dL your arteries could become blocked.
- HDL-C is considered “good cholesterol” because it can help keep cholesterol from building up in your arteries. HDL-C levels below 40 mg/dL are considered too low.
- Triglycerides, which are another type of fat in the blood, should be below 150 mg/dL to prevent the risk of heart disease.
Understand Heart and Vascular Disease
While certain genetic factors, age, and gender may predispose you to heart or vascular disease, most risk factors are modifiable. You should always be conscious of your health, through lifestyle modification, and take the appropriate action, such as an annual physical, to maintain optimal cardiovascular well being.
Heart disease refers to problems affecting your heart and coronary arteries. Heart disease can affect heart rate, rhythm, valves, and heart muscle.
Examples of heart disease:
• Blood clots
• Congenital heart defects
• Heart attack
• Irregular heartbeat
• Heart failure
Vascular disease refers to problems affecting your blood vessels (arteries and veins outside the heart). Vascular disease often occurs because of narrowing of the vessels that carry blood to the legs, arms, kidneys and other vital organs.
Examples of vascular disease:
• Carotid Artery Disease
• Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Signs and symptoms of heart disease (Coronary Artery Disease):
- You may not have any symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease until a blocked artery becomes too narrow.
- The most common symptom is chest pain, also called angina.
- Angina occurs when your heart does not get enough blood flow to deliver oxygen to the heart muscle.
- Angina may feel different with every person. Some may experience tightness, pressure or heavy pain in the chest area. You may also have discomfort in your neck, jaw, shoulders, back, or inner arms. At times, it can simply feel like indigestion (burning sensation under the breastbone). Sometimes angina can cause you to feel short of breath.
- In addition to angina, women are more likely to experience other common symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
- Depending on your type of angina, rest or medicine usually makes the pain go away.
- Angina pain not relieved by rest or medicine is a warning sign that a heart attack may occur. You should seek medical attention immediately! Call 9-1-1 for Emergency Services.
Signs and symptoms of peripheral vascular disorders (also called Peripheral Arterial Disease or “PAD”):
PAD develops slowly over many years. In the early stages, most people with PAD have no symptoms. The most common signs of PAD include one or more of these problems:
- Cramps, tiredness or pain in your legs, thighs, or buttocks that always happens when you walk but that goes away when you rest. This is called claudication.
- Foot or toe pain at rest that often disturbs your sleep. Burning pain in your hands, fingers, feet or toes relieved with rest or a warm environment.
- Tight, shiny, cold skin with uneven hair growth.
- A change in skin color such as white, red, blue, purple or black that is not normal for you. This could be the sign of a vascular emergency.
- Wounds or sores on your feet or toes that are slow to heal (or do not heal for 8-12 weeks).
- Tingling, decreased feeling or no feeling in your hands or feet.
- Weakness in your extremities.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider because it may be a warning sign of PAD.
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Non-Modifiable risk factors: These are things you cannot control.
- Family history
- Age: Men 45 and older and women 55 and older are at an increased risk
- Race: If you are African American, Mexican American, American Indian or of Native American descent you may be at higher risk of developing heart and/or vascular disease.
Modifiable risk factors: These are things you can control!
- Physical inactivity
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Am I at risk for PAD?
The chance of having PAD increases as you get older. People over age 50 have a higher risk for PAD, but the risk is increased if you:
- Smoke (now or in the past)
- Have diabetes
- Have high blood pressure
- Have high cholesterol
- Are of African-American ethnicity
- Have a history of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke
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