Healthy Notes

Posted October 2, 2013 at 1:54 pm

What is heart disease?

By April Speck, Coordinator,

Clinton County Healthy Hometown Coalition

The heart is the center of the cardiovascular system. Through the body’s blood vessels, the heart pumps blood to all of the body’s cells. The blood carries oxygen, which the cells need. Cardiovascular disease is a group of problems that occur when the heart and blood vessels aren’t working the way they should.

Here are some of the problems that go along with cardiovascular disease:

• Arteriosclerosis: also called hardening of the arteries, arteriosclerosis means the arteries become thickened and are no longer as flexible.

• Atherosclerosis: a buildup of cholesterol and fat that makes the arteries narrower so less blood can flow through. Those buildups are called plaque.

• Angina: people with angina feel a pain in the chest that means the heart isn’t getting enough blood.

• Heart attack: when a blood clot or other blockage cuts blood flow to a part of the heart.

• Stroke: when part of the brain doesn’t get enough blood due to a clot or a burst blood vessel.

Heart disease may be a leading cause of death, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it as your fate. Although you lack the power to change some risk factors — such as family history, sex or age — there are some key heart disease prevention steps you can take.

1. Don’t smoke or use tobacco: Smoking or using tobacco is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack. When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. Smokeless tobacco and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes also are risky, as is exposure to secondhand smoke.

2. Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week. Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. When you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater. Physical activity helps you control your weight and can reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

3. Eat a heart-healthy diet: Eating a special diet called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan can help protect your heart. Following the DASH diet means eating foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt. The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, which can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease.

4. Maintain a healthy weight: As you put on weight in adulthood, your weight gain is mostly fat rather than muscle. This excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

5. Get regular health screenings: High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without testing for them, you probably won’t know whether you have these conditions. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.

Did you know…

• That Kentucky ranks sixth in the US in heart disease death rates?

• That 23 percent of all deaths in Kentucky are caused by diseases of the heart?

• In Kentucky, inpatient hospitalizations for cardiovascular-related diagnoses for 2004 totaled over $2,106,997,000

• You can avoid heart problems in the future by adopting a healthy lifestyle today.

For more information contact April Speck, Healthy Hometown Coordinator at 606-306-7044 or

Portions of the above article contain informtation contributed by and

Healthy Hometown is working toward a “healthy” Clinton County.