February is American Heart Month

Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are our nation’s No. 1 killer. To urge Americans to join the battle against these diseases, February is proclaimed “American Heart Month.”

Locally in 2020, 247 men and 218 women died from heart disease. That represents 30% of the deaths in Richland County (including Shelby). Five percent (5%) of deaths in Richland County were due to strokes.

That’s why it’s so important to reduce your risk factors, know the warning signs, and know how to respond quickly and properly if warning signs occur.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the “movie heart attack,” when no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.   
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. Women are more likely to report stomach discomfort. 
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.  
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

Stroke Warning Signs (from the American Stroke Association)

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

If you or someone with you has one or more of these signs for either a heart attack or a stroke, don’t delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent to you. The faster you can get medical care the better chances are for both survival and decreasing the negative side effects.

Here are some thing you can do keep from having a heart attack:

  • Exercise for 30 minutes several days a week.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in sodium, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions for medications and treatment.

Blood Pressure Checks

Richland Public Health is asking residents to watch their blood pressure as a way of tracking their heart health and preventing heart disease and stroke. Self-measuring one’s blood pressure allows individuals to track and share those readings with their doctor to better manage their high blood pressure.

For additional heart information see www.heart.org or check the personal health links at richlandhealth.org.

Additional Notes:

  • With the recent weather, it should be noted that over-exerting when shoveling snow is a known cause of heart attacks.
  • Wear Red for Women is February 5. The day recognizes Women’s Heart Health. See https://www.goredforwomen.org