NURSE SPEAKS ON HEART HEALTH
Cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death in America
With February coming to an end, medical professionals are working to ensure that people are paying attention to one of the biggest health aspects in their lives: the heart.
February serves as American Heart Month, “a time when all people can focus on their cardiovascular health,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Keith Volk, a Banner Health acute nurse practitioner in cardiology, has shared some information on the dangers and risks of cardiovascular disease as well as ways to stay heart healthy.
Volk said that cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death in America, with one person dying of the disease every 34 seconds in the United States.
While more than 800,000 people in the U.S. will experience a heart attack each year, two out of 10 of those will be under the age of 65; he added as well that the most common time for a heart attack to happen is Monday morning.
Volk said that while 49% of men and 32% of women over the age of 40 will develop cardiovascular disease, 20% of heart attack victims are not even aware that it is happening.
While cardiovascular disease deaths remain high across the country, he noted that mortality rates by cardiovascular disease have decreased 50% since 1980.
“We are definitely making great improvements in the recognition and treatment of cardiovascular disease in the United States,” he said.
Volk said there are a number of ways that people can remain heart healthy.
While medical professionals have identified three non-modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease — age, sex and genetics — there are several modifiable factors people can watch out for to decrease their chance of suffering from heart disease,
The three biggest ones, he said, are tobacco use, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Beyond this, other lesser factors that can contribute are diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use.
“There are quite a few people who come into the hospital or are brought into our clinic who have no idea they were at risk for heart disease or cardiovascular disease,” he said. “If at least (we) can educate people … on the risk factors for it and what to watch out for, then hopefully they will adopt a healthy lifestyle to hopefully prevent themselves from developing it. But if they do develop warning signs, they (should) come in very quickly to be evaluated.”
According to the American Heart Association, common heart attack warning signs are pain or discomfort in the chest; light-headedness, nausea or vomiting; pain in the neck or back; discomfort or pain in the arm or shoulder; and shortness of breath.
Volk also said a great resource for people is the American Heart Association’s Simple 7: the “seven most important predictors of heart health,” according to the group’s website. Like Volk’s advice on modifiable factors, the seven include stopping smoking, eating better, getting active, losing weight, managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol and reducing blood sugar.
One of his biggest pieces of advice Volk offered for local residents to stay heart healthy was to have a trusted health care provider to visit and check in with to ensure the heart is working properly.
“Unless you routinely see a health care provider, you don’t know what those (risks) are,” he said, later adding “we frequently see people who don’t see a doctor regularly and they don’t even know they have these risk factors.”
Volk also recommended that residents get CPR certified so they can help others in the event of an emergency.
He also said that the focus of many doctors now is preventing cardiovascular disease before it becomes a problem through preventative care.
While all doctors are happy to treat people when something becomes an issue, the hope is they don’t develop problems in the first place, he said
“That is the goal, so I never have to see or treat you,” he said. “Once you see our team, you probably have already developed a problem and that is what we don’t want.”