2012-02-17 / Commentary

Take steps to ensure heart health

BY DR. MARIA MAZORRA

Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are our nation’s No. 1 killer. One in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day.

In an effort to raise awareness about this health problem, since 1963 the U.S. Congress has required the president to proclaim February “American Heart Month.”

Maine currently ranks as the 32nd highest heart disease rate in the U.S. In 2007, heart disease caused 2,852 deaths in Maine ( 23 percent of all deaths in the state) and stroke caused 664 deaths (5 percent of all deaths).

Most of us know someone who has had heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

Although widespread and one of the most costly health problem, cardiovascular disease is also among the most preventable. There are actions we can take as individuals and as communities to address this public health problem.

Individuals need to understand their personal risk factors and what can and cannot be changed. The following are risk factors for heart disease that cannot be modified:

— A woman age 55 or older

— A man age 45 or older

— A person with a family history of early heart disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Million Heart Initiative seeks to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by the end of 2016 by improving care for people who need treatment and by encouraging a focus on the “ABCS.” These are risk factors you can control:

— Ask you doctor if you should take an Aspirin every day.

— Blood pressure control

— Cholesterol management

— Smoking cessation and staying away from secondhand smoke

Many other lifestyle choices can also protect your heart:

— Maintain a healthy weight.

— Eat healthy; reduce the amount of sodium and trans fat you eat.

— If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.

— Get active, exercise.

— Manage stress.

— Follow your doctor’s prescription instructions.

— Challenge your family and friends to take the Million Hearts pledge at www.millionhearts.hhs.gov.

Maine has a program in which communities are awarded the title of Heart- Safe. There are numerous criteria that must be met that help improve cardiovascular health and decrease death and disability associated with cardiovascular events.

However, the general public, as members of the community need to engage and support our families and neighbors who struggle with these illnesses. Among the goals of the Sagadahoc Board of Health is to increase awareness regarding cardiac health and improve response time to an event to include early Public Access Defibrillation.

We encourage members of the public to become CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED ( automatic external defibrillation) trained.

For more information on local resources that support heart healthy choices, visit www.AccessHealthME.org — the local Healthy Maine Partnership serving Sagadahoc County, Brunswick and Harpswell.

Maria Mazorra, M.D. is the chief of occupational medicine for Bath Iron Works, and a member of the Sagadahoc Board of Health.

letters@timesrecord.com

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