By: Cathy Wentz, www.thespectrum.com
While February typically boasts paper hearts, the American Heart Association hopes people take a closer look at the health of their own beating, human heart as part of February's "American Heart Month," meant to educate about and prevent heart disease.
Dr. Aarush Manchanda, Valley View Medical Center cardiologist, said major risk factors in heart disease can be high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, smoking, diabetes and being overweight. While each risk factor does not directly cause heart disease, Manchanda said added all together can increase a person's risk.
Those factors apply to a general population though, and not to individuals. So an individual may have no risk factors and have a heart attack anyway, while someone else has all the risk factors and not have a heart attack.
"It's not cause and effect -- it's just overall making you more susceptible," he said.
An annual blood pressure check, for example, should be given to someone once he or she reaches 18 years old, according to a federal agency called United States Preventive Services Task Force. Manchanda said men and women should check cholesterol levels as well.
"And if you think, 'I'm really great and healthy and I run marathons every day ... I've never smoked, I live a healthy lifestyle, I've never tried any drink,' even that person should get it after 35," he said.
Men should be tested starting at age 35. If a man has other heart disease risk factors, that age drops to 20 to 35. Women should be tested at age 45. However, if a woman also experiences other risk factors, then the testing age drops from ages 20 to 45 as well.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of coronary heart disease in Utah was approximately three percent in 2009. Additionally, the prevalence of heart attacks in Utah for 2009 was 3.2 percent while the 2006 mortality rate from heart attacks was 37.8 per 100,000 people.
Manchanda said health insurance plans, including those offered through the Affordable Care Act, provide free prevention services on an annual basis.
Manchanda compared the diabetes risk to a plumbing problem in the arteries, stating that if pipes get clogged if sugar water is continually poured down into the pipe. Diabetics have sticky blood because it is sugary.
He said people can modify risk by eating healthy, checking cholesterol levels, becoming active and slimming down.
Barbara Hirschi, an exercise instructor who primarily teaches at Spirit Wellness Club, said people who already have heart disease should first check a physician before starting an exercise program.
Maintaining a strong, healthy heart through cardiovascular movement is the most important exercise, she said. Hirschi said at least 20 daily minutes of exercises gets the heart pumping. However, people who have not been doing any form of exercise should begin with five to 10 minutes and work up to 20 minutes.
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