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The American Heart Association

02/01/2007 01:21PM ● Published by Brandi Barnett

The Heart of the Matter

February 2007
By Marty Sternberg

The American Heart Association is a national, volunteer health agency whose mission is to reduce disability and death caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke. Its driving strategy is to provide credible information for effective prevention and treatment of these diseases. In the North State, this is done with an education campaign through the media as well as other events.

When the AHA formed in 1915, patients were considered doomed if they were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease; bed rest was the only treatment and death was inevitable. Now, with earlier diagnosis as well as prevention and treatment plans that include a healthier lifestyle, patients can live a long and productive life. While the organization started with a pioneering group of doctors and social workers, it has grown in size and respectability. Today it is a national and international network of volunteers from all walks of life dedicated to reducing the impact of this disease. Headquartered in Dallas, TX, the AHA is involved in providing research, education, funding and community programs.

“Our goal locally is to work through our local offices and to reach out to the community with information about the prevention of heart disease,” said Dawn Borgnis, Executive Director. Heart disease can be a silent killer. Sufferers may have no symptoms and the disease is often misdiagnosed — especially among women. So information is vital, she said. Awareness campaigns help the public know what to do in case of an emergency. Time is a critical factor in diagnosing a stroke or heart attack and getting help quickly. “Heart disease is the number one killer of women,” Borgnis said, “more than all seven cancers combined.”

To help get that information out to the community, the AHA has partnered for two years with Mercy Medical Center in Redding. The two organizations will team up again this year for the “Go Red” campaign. This program, which started four years ago, is a way for everyone to get involved and show their support in the fight against heart disease. Go Red is an international campaign designed to raise awareness about this disease in women.

On February 2, everyone is encouraged to wear red to celebrate the 2007 Go Red for Women campaign. A red dress, blouse, skirt, tie or shoes will show your support for this campaign. Red pins shaped like a dress are also available by going online and registering on the AHA website (

Red evokes passion and confidence – and it signals change. It’s the color for women and heart disease. You have the power to keep your heart healthy for a lifetime and Go Red for Women by:
• Learning the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke.
• Scheduling a checkup with your healthcare professional.
• Tracking your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight.
• Following your healthcare professional’s recommendations, including taking prescribed medications.

For more information, here’s how to contact the American Heart Association: 530-342-4247; Fax 530-345-4072;

Your Heart is in Your Hands. Only you can love you heart. There are some risk factors for heart disease you can control.
• High Blood Pressure: This condition can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack.
• Smoking: A smoker’s risk of developing coronary heart disease is two to four times that of nonsmokers.
• High Cholesterol: The higher your total blood cholesterol, the greater your risk of coronary heart disease.
• Physical Inactivity: Lack of physical activity increases your risk of coronary heart disease.
• Obesity or Overweight: If you have excess body fat, especially at the waist, you’re more likely to develop heart disease and stroke.
• Diabetes: Having diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, especially if your blood sugar is not controlled.

There are other risk factors to be aware of – talk to your doctor about how your age, race and heredity may affect your risk for heart disease.

5 Simple Ways to Love Your Heart. It’s not hard to reduce your risk for heart disease. Start today with small, simple actions like these:
1. Celebrate with a checkup. Let each birthday remind you that it’s time for your yearly checkup and a talk with your doctor about how you can reduce your risk for heart disease.
2. Get up off the couch. Step, march or jog in place for at least 30 minutes most days of the week – you can even do it while watching TV.
3. Quit smoking in four steps. Can’t go cold turkey? Cut the number of cigarettes you smoke each day in half; then cut that number in half; cut it in half again; finally cut down to zero!
4. Drop a pound or two. Cutting out just 200 to 300 calories, a day – about one candy bar’s worth – can help you lose up to two pounds per week and gradually bring you closer to a heart-healthy weight.
5. Become a salt detective. Check out the Nutrition Facts panel for sodium (salt) levels. Aim for a total intake of no more than 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon of salt) per day.

Your heart helps you to care for family, friends and the community. But your heart may be at risk if you don’t care for it.

Heart Attack Warning Signs
• 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.
• Shortness of breath. This feeling often comes along with chest discomfort. But in can occur before the chest discomfort.
• Other signs. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Stroke Warning Signs
• 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

Not all of these warning signs occur with every heart attack or stroke. If you have one or more of these signs, don’t wait longer than five minutes before calling for help. Heart Attack and Stroke are Medical Emergencies. Call 9-1-1… Get to the hospital right away

In Print, Life+Leisure
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