GREELEY — The numbers are telling: every minute someone dies from coronary heart disease making heart disease the leading cause of death in the United States. More than 630,000 people die from heart disease each year – representing more than one in every four deaths in the U.S. Just as many women, as men, die from heart disease each year; and about 1.5 million Americans will suffer a heart attack this year. In Weld County, over 300 residents die each year from heart disease and over 1,500 residents are hospitalized with heart related conditions.
Often referred to as a “silent killer” because symptoms generally do not appear before it’s too late, heart disease does not have to be a death sentence. Everyone can take steps to protect their heart by seeking medical care as soon as possible. Education, awareness, lifestyle choices and knowing what to do if you suspect someone is having a heart attack can make a significant difference in preventing heart disease or surviving a cardiac event.
As a month already dedicated to matters of the heart, February is the ideal time to focus attention on and build awareness about heart disease. Endorsed by Congress and the President of the United States, each year February is proclaimed American Heart Month, dedicated to eliminating heart disease as the leading cause of death in the U.S.
According to Dr. Mark Wallace, Executive Director of the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, most people know what they need to do to help reduce their risk of heart disease, but getting people to actually do it is the challenge.
“The most important step individuals can take to help reduce the risk of heart disease is to quit smoking,” says Wallace. “Everyone knows this, but getting people to quit, or to not start smoking in the first place, is difficult.”
In addition to smoking, The top five risk factors for heart disease are:
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Lack of exercise
• Unhealthy Diet – high in fat, salt, and added sugars / low in fresh fruits and vegetables
Ironically, all of these risk factors can be managed. When it comes to heart disease, most people know how to reduce the risks, but taking action to change behavior in our society is nearly impossible until someone experiences a cardiac event themselves.
In addition to building awareness about the risk factors for heart disease, American Heart Month provides the opportunity to stress the message that in the event of a heart attack, seconds count and calling 911 for help is the single most critical factor. One-half of all deaths due to heart attacks occur within 1 hour of the onset of symptoms and before the person reaches medical help. Receiving early treatment has been proven to prevent, or at least limit, damage to the heart.
For more information on heart health visit the American Heart Association’s website at: www.americanheart.org/ or contact Kelly Campbell at the Weld County Department of Public Health at 970-304-6470 ext. 2325.
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