Patient's Page

Authors: Jennifer McKinney, MA


February is National Heart Month
Heart Facts: According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 927,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, and over 70 million Americans (one quarter of the population) have some form of cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and/or stroke). What are the different types of heart disease, and what can we do to prevent them? Coronary artery disease causes narrowing of the vessels leading to the heart, due to a buildup of plaque. This plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) is caused by high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream. Over time, these fatty substances leave deposits in the arteries, which eventually cause narrowing of the vessels, and can lead to a myocardial infarction (heart attack). The symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain (angina), which is often described as a feeling of heaviness, pressure, burning or squeezing (similar to the symptoms of indigestion). Symptoms may also include pain extending to the shoulders, arms, back and even the jaw and teeth, shortness of breath, anxiety, sweating, lightheadedness and possibly even nausea and vomiting. Remember, not all heart attacks have the "classic" symptoms, and sometimes the pain will come and go. If you develop any of these symptoms, it is imperative that you be seen in the emergency room as quickly as possible. 5 Steps to Prevent Heart DiseaseEat right. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products will help protect your heart. Limiting the amount of fat in your diet, especially saturated fats, (which can be found in beef, cheese, butter and milk) is particularly important. Maintain a healthy weight. Excessive weight can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), and diabetes. A healthy weight is generally determined in two ways, by BMI (body mass index), which is determined using your height and weight (a body mass calculator can be found at, and by waist measurement, in order to determine abdominal fat. Generally, excessive abdominal fat is considered to be greater than 40 inches for men, and greater than 35 inches for women. Exercise. Participating in regular exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease by nearly a quarter. Additionally, exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, and reduces stress, both of which further reduce your risk of heart disease. Stop smoking. Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, many of which can damage your heart and blood vessels, and make them more vulnerable to atherosclerosis. Nicotine also constricts blood vessels, which forces your heart to work harder and raises your blood pressure. Obtain regular health screenings. Make sure you get regular checkups for blood pressure and cholesterol, and if regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet and weight doesn't lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, speak to your physician about beginning a medication regimen. Jump Your Way to Stronger BonesOsteoporosis is called the "silent thief," and for good reason. Failure to consume enough calcium in your diet can rob you of bone mass and lead to brittle bones, fractures, and loss in height. Research has now discovered that in addition to calcium, exercise can help keep bones healthy. And oddly enough, jumping is one of the best exercises for preventing bone loss. Why? High-intensity resistance exercises actually stimulate new bone growth. So drag out your old jump rope and jump your way to stronger bones. From "Variables for the Prediction of Femoral Bone Mineral Status in American Women" by Dr. Martha Bass and colleagues. Southern Medical Journal. February 2006.

This content is limited to qualifying members.

Existing members, please login first.

If you have an existing account please login now to access this article or view your purchase options.

Purchase only this article ($15)

Create a free account, then purchase this article to download or access it online for 24 hours.

Purchase an SMJ online subscription ($75)

Create a free account, then purchase a subscription to get complete access to all articles for a full year.

Purchase a membership plan (fees vary)

Premium members can access all articles plus recieve many more benefits. View all membership plans and benefit packages.