Public Health offers advice on improving heart health

FONDA — Montgomery County Public Health is offering advice on improving heart health.

Heart disease is America’s leading cause of death. Heart disease affects both men and women, but women are more likely to die from a heart attack. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.

Montgomery County Public Health wants to remind individuals that during Heart Month in February it is important for everyone to think about how you can reduce their risk of death and disability from heart disease. In both men and women, the most common warning sign of a heart attack is discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. Women are more likely to experience some of the other warning signs, particularly shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Women often don’t recognize these symptoms as a heart attack and wait too long to seek care. Contact a doctor or call 911 immediately if you experience any of these warning signs. If you are having a heart attack, the faster you can get to the hospital, the less damage will happen to your heart.

The biggest factors that contribute to heart disease are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history and age. Take a moment to look at your lifestyle, family history and your general health. With this information, you and your family doctor can assess your risk and make a plan to avoid potential problems. Although you can’t do much about your family history or your age, you can make lifestyle changes to avoid many of the other risk factors.

Montgomery County Public Health recommends the following preventive measures:

∫ Don’t smoke. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. If you smoke, call the New York State Smokers’ Quit line at 1-866-NY-QUITS (697-8487) or visit

∫ Control your blood pressure. Treating high blood pressure can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Losing weight, being physically active and choosing foods low in saturated fat, and a low-sodium diet help control high blood pressure.

∫ Control your cholesterol level. If you don’t know your level, ask your doctor to check it. Diet and physical activity are important in lowering high cholesterol levels. However, some people may need to take medicine in addition to diet and physical activity.

∫ Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight puts strain on your heart and arteries. Physical activity and eating fewer calories can help you lose weight. Skipping the soda is an easy way to cut calories.

∫ Be physically active. Remember, your heart is a muscle. It needs regular exercise to stay in shape. Even moderate forms of regular physical activity, such as walking, can reduce your risk of heart disease. Try to accumulate at 150 minutes of moderate activity each week.

∫ Take care of diabetes. If you have diabetes, physical activity, weight control, a high-fiber diet and regular doctor visits are important.

∫ Know your family history. Having a father or brother with heart disease before age 55, or a mother or sister with heart disease before age 65, are factors that contribute to heart disease. Inform your doctor about your family history.

∫ Remember to choose foods low in saturated fat, get plenty of rest and exercise. And stay on top of your overall health by getting an annual checkup. For more information about heart disease, visit the state Department of Health website at—disease/.

By Josh Bovee

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