Beating Heart Disease
By Rep. Kristi Noem
January 30, 2015
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine suffered a heart attack. Thankfully, he received the medical attention he needed in time and is now recovering at home, but the whole experience was extremely sobering and made me hug my family a bit closer that night.
Each year, 720,000 Americans have a heart attack. While many think about heart disease as something that primarily impacts older men, about half of heart attacks are suffered by women and 35,000 a year impact individuals who are under 55. But while anyone can develop heart disease, those who smoke, have diabetes, are overweight, eat poorly, or don’t get enough exercise are at a greater risk.
Regardless of age or gender, the most common symptom of heart disease is chest pain or discomfort. Sometimes this pain is sudden and intense, but in most cases, it starts slowly. Women may also experience a shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain – although men can display these symptoms as well.
Acting quickly if any of these symptoms occur is critical. The American Heart Association recommends waiting no longer than five minutes before calling 911.
The best treatment, however, is prevention. Monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure. Have your glucose levels checked regularly. Kick the smoking habit. Get up and get active. Experts say improving your health could take as little as a ten-minute walk, three times a day.
We’ve learned a lot about heart disease – especially as it relates to the disease’s impact on women – over the last decade or so. That knowledge is saving lives. Between 2000 and 2010, the rates of death for heart disease fell by an average of 3.8 percent annually. While advances have been made, far too many lives are lost every year to the disease.
February is American Heart Month. I encourage you to do something today to reduce your risk. Take a walk. Dish up some extra vegetables. Schedule a doctor’s appointment. Quit smoking. Take control and make just one change.