By: Cathy Wentz, www.thespectrum.com
CEDAR CITY -- Although most Utahns have one advantage in reducing the risk of heart disease -- not smoking -- local physicians say residents have other indicators of cardiovascular health problems.
Dr. David Blodgett, director of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, said like the rest of the nation, heart disease is the no. 1 killer in Utah and that has been the case for the past 10 to 15 years. He cited national statistics that indicate two-thirds of men and slightly more than half of women will have cardiovascular disease in their lifetimes.
According to survey information, Blodgett said approximately 70 percent of U.S. citizens do not smoke, but between 80 and 90 percent of Utahns do not smoke.
"Somewhere between nine and 12 percent smoke depending on where you live in the state," Blodgett said. "In our part of the state, it's about 10 percent."
He said Utahns' exposure to other indicators of cardiovascular health is similar to the country as a whole. After smoking, Blodgett said, the next important step for avoiding heart disease is maintaining a healthy weight. Approximately 40 percent of Americans claim to be at a healthy weight.
He said when Americans are asked if they exercise for at least 30 minutes or more a day, five times a week, 22 percent reported to be doing that. When it comes to eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, with a serving being measured as one cup, again 22 percent reported to be doing that.
"Then the alarming statistic is if you ask how many people have all four of those, the answer is 3 percent," Blodgett said.
Howard Markman, a visitor to Cedar City from Atlantic City, N.J., was headed to Coal Creek Trail for a walk Saturday afternoon. He said although he does walk for the purpose of exercising, he does not do it as much as he would like.
He said he was planning on walking the trail to "get his heart going" and take in nature at the same time.
Dr. Aarush Manchanda serves as a cardiologist for Valley View Heart Clinic in Cedar City. He said the top risk factor for heart disease is age.
"As you get older, you get a risk of hardening of the arteries, but you have no control over that," he said.
The biggest contributor to heart disease after age, Manchanda said, is Type II diabetes, which is generally found in people who are overweight or obese, followed by high cholesterol and high blood pressure. However, if a person only has high blood pressure, they are more likely to suffer a stroke than a heart attack.
"You want to make sure you get your diabetes checked; you want to make sure you get your high cholesterol checked because each one independently might have different risks, but when you add one with the other, they compound," Manchanda said.
He also said although smoking can put a person at two and a half times higher risk for coronary disease, uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk 10- or 12-fold.
Blodgett said the purpose of the chronic disease division of the SWUPHD is to offer people guidance in making healthy lifestyle choices. He said it is very difficult to obtain funding for promoting preventative care, as 98 to 99 percent of health care dollars are spent treating sick people. He added that health departments are experiencing even more cutbacks in funding for prevention.
Despite its limitations, Blodgett said, the SWUPHD is taking proactive measures to help Southern Utahns in the five-county area reduce their risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Those efforts include programs to help people stop smoking as well as promoting fitness and wellness activities. He also said cardiovascular health issues are addressed on the department website, www.swuhealth.org, and in every issue of its magazine.
Manchanda said diet and exercise are two of the most important measures people can take to improve their cardiovascular health because they prevent weight problems that can result in diabetes. Diet and exercise can also be helpful in controlling cholesterol, he said.
"You want to make sure you get your diabetes checked; you want to make sure you get your high cholesterol checked because each one independently might have different risks, but when you add one with the other, they compound."
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