DO YOU KNOW?
Of course everyone knows that a heart attack is preceded by chest pain. And everyone knows that it is primarily a disease of old men. And everyone knows that it occurs while doing things like shoveling snow. And everyone knows that this condition runs in families.
Although these statements may be true, there are many other factors that affect a person’s risk for heart disease. Do you smoke? Are you overweight? Do you exercise regularly? Is your cholesterol elevated? Do you have (or ever had) hypertension (elevated blood pressure)? Are you diabetic (even if your blood sugars are controlled)? Are you overweight or obese? Well all of these conditions make a person prone to heart disease.
The following statistics were recently released for Pennsylvania:
- 7% of all PA adults have heart disease.
- 33% of all adults have high blood pressure
- 38% of all adults have elevated cholesterol
- 223 males per 100,000 die every year from heart disease
- 173 women per 100,000 die every year from heart disease
Men and women can die from a heart attack at any time in their adult life. It is not limited to just old age. The above risk factors are usually unknown unless discovered either by accident or at a routine physical examination. Although men typically experience a crushing pressure across the left/ anterior chest wall, a heart attack could simply present as shortness of breath, chest pressure, indigestion, light headedness or pain in the left jaw or ear area. (The heart is located primarily on the left side of the chest.) If my family has no history of heart disease I may still be at risk of heart disease. Your relatives ate differently, were more physical, and were not as overweight because they exercised more just through their daily non-automated activities.
Women are more protected from heart attacks than men until they experience menopause regardless of the age or cause. This is from a hormonal protection. However, it does not protect them from diabetes, hypertension, or hardening of the arteries. Women who are experiencing a heart attack are often mis-diagnosed because their symptoms can be quite vague- dizziness, a feeling of tiredness or weakness, hot flashes and many similar symptoms resembling anxiety. In years past, a diagnosis of panic or anxiety frequently occurred after a woman presented to the hospital ER or doctors office because of these vague complaints even though she was really experiencing heart pain (angina) because the tests all came back normal. Eventually angina can become a full blown heart attack.
As has been stated many time in the past. You can either seek medical help early through healthy living and routine medical exams or you can defy fate and get care after a major medical event occurs—if you have survived that event.