By Mary K. Rhone –
As we flip the calendar to February and see the 14th is coming up, we run to the sticky notes and add to our to-do list “pick up Valentine’s Day cards”. We want those we love to know that we are thinking of them by giving a card, a gift, or maybe a special dinner out. What if this year we all would turn our idea of giving ourselves as a gift to those we care about? What I mean is that we start doing the things we can do, making the changes we can make, to be more vibrant and be here longer in the lives of those we cherish.
The US has started the Million Hearts initiative and the goal is to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next 5 years. For every 3 deaths that happen daily, 1 is from heart disease or stroke. That figures out to around 2200 each day! As bad as this sounds, there is good news in that we CAN do something to change this.
The first thing on our new “to-do list” is to find out the important numbers: cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure. This will be an easy thing to check off as Lexington Regional Health Center will be having its annual health screening in March and we can get these numbers soon. Then, we can take these results to our primary care provider and have the discussion about our health. If someone’s blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar is too high, talk about how to get them under control. Control is the important thing. Prevention is best, but if one or all of your numbers are up, control is the next best measure.
When talking with your health care provider, ask if they feel you have a high risk for heart disease or stroke. If they feel you do, ask them if starting on an Aspirin each day would be beneficial. This is NOT something we should start taking without consulting with our provider, but this small, simple form of treatment can have a great benefit.
The last part on the Million Hearts initiative is for smokers to stop. I know, I know, all of the smokers out there have heard this a million times. Again, if setting the goal to quit isn’t what you want to do for yourself, change your train of thought and make the goal to quit for the family, friends, pets, or co-workers who want you to be with them.
One more important thing – I want to talk about the symptoms that people experience when they may be having heart problems or an actual heart attack. These symptoms include:
- Any type of discomfort (most people describe the discomfort as pressure, heaviness, squeezing, tightness, burning or a true pain) in the chest, jaw, upper back, or one or both arms.
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid pounding heartbeat.
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Nausea and possibly vomiting
- Being unusually tired or weak.
Many times, people feel fine sitting around, but then some of these symptoms start when they are doing some type of activity. If you notice you are having some of these symptoms and that you feel better once you sit and rest for a bit, that is great…..but now is the time to get to your care provider and get checked before it gets worse. These symptoms are called “angina” and they are the warning signs before a heart attack can happen. Heart attack symptoms are the same as the ones listed above except they do NOT go away with rest. If you or someone next to you is experiencing these symptoms and they are not relieved by sitting down, call 9-1-1.
So, as we turn the calendar to February, think about the little steps you can do that add up to big differences in your life and for those you care about. You may be here longer, feel better, and be happier. Oh, and don’t forget to buy that Valentine’s Day card.