Fight back against heart attack, stroke

Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 7:21 am

Cardiovascular disease in the leading cause of death in Tennessee and the United States, with more than 2,000 deaths each day nationwide attributed to heart disease or stroke. These conditions are also leading causes of disability, preventing people from working and enjoying time with family and friends. As part of observances of American Heart Month this February, the Tennessee Department of Health is reminding Tennesseans how they can fight back against heart attack and stroke.

“We can all reduce our risk for cardiovascular disease by making healthy choices for diet and exercise: knowing our blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol and blood sugar and avoiding tobacco use,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “In addition to at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity and a focus on a healthy diet, knowing our numbers and talking with our health care providers about them opens the door to a variety of low-cost, effective ways to keep them healthy or get treatment early for things like high blood pressure or cholesterol if they are not where we want them to be, so we can be there for the people who need us.”

In Tennessee, heart disease was the number one cause of death in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. Stroke was the number five cause of death in 2011. Combined, these diseases took the lives of more than 17,000 Tennesseans in that year alone. However, Department of Health data show Tennessee’s death rate for diseases of the heart decreased by 5.2 percent from 2007 to 2011.

Department of Health data also demonstrate the prevalence of risk factors for heart attack and stroke in Tennessee, including tobacco use, obesity, poor diet and hypertension. Figures from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show 23 percent of Tennesseans smoke, more than 66 percent were classified as overweight or obese, more than 38 percent reported having been told by a health professional that their cholesterol is high, and more than 38 percent reported having been told they had high blood pressure.

Heart disease is the top cause of death among women in Tennessee and the U.S. and kills more women than men nationwide each year. February 1, 2013, marks the 10th year of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women® movement, which TDH supports as part of efforts to protect, promote and improve health among Tennesseans.

“By wearing red on February 1, people across Tennessee show support for women’s fight against their number one killer, heart disease,” said Patty Clements of the American Heart Association Greater Southeast Affiliate. “We want Tennessee women to know that with the right information, education and care, heart disease can be treated, prevented and even ended.”

Many TDH sites will observe National Wear Red Day® on Friday, Feb. 1, and TDH invites all Tennesseans to wear red on this date to raise awareness of the toll of heart disease among women. For more information on Go Red for Women®, visit www.goredforwomen.org.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Heart attack symptoms are also often different in women than in men. For more information on preventing heart attack and stroke and recognizing the warning signs for these conditions, visit the Department of Health website at http://health.state.tn.us/heartdisease/index.htm.

Smoking is a contributing factor to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Tennesseans who smoke are urged to contact the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) to enroll in this free service to help kick the habit. Smoking cessation services are also available at Tennessee’s county health department clinics, and are offered on a sliding fee scale based on income.

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