Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Going RED

In case you didn't know, I love your heart. :)   I'd love it even more, if we all took better care of it....

Today is the first day of February and the launch of the American Heart Association's "Go Red For Women" campaign. Throughout college and my participation in UNCG's Orientation program, every year I had the opportunity to participate in the local AHA's Heart & Stroke Walk. I think these events are what really got me so obsessed with your heart!!!

I, like many, come from a long family line of heart disease. When I was about 12 years old (I think) I lost my great-grand-father to a Stroke. Not a long after his death, his oldest son, my great-uncle died from what I have been lead to believe was also related to heart disease (AMI). Then... not long after his death, my Grand-father (my mom's dad) had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass graft followed that. Although I didn't really know all the causative agents, then as I do now, of heart disease.... I have always accredited this short time frame in my young life as what initiated the obsession I have with my own heart (and cardiovascular system).

Although this all stems from my maternal lineage, my father's side isn't much better. It is reaming with the same issues of high blood pressure, cholesterol and the cherry on the cake= Diabetes.

I work very hard to keep my risks low with diet and exercise... but last year after my first cholesterol screening (25 is way late to know this information for the first time!!), I was informed that even with everything I do.... my cholesterol was STILL slightly elevated. :(   I was literally crushed. Seriously - ask Todd. I cried. I had a pity-party. I got mad. Then I decided to make a few more changes.

I'm determined to CHANGE this genetic trait for MY family as much as I can. (yes, I would be willing to make extreme changes in my diet (vegan-ism) if that's what it will take! we all should be willing to do so if you ask me...) This year I have REALLY ramped up my intake of raw vegetables and fruits, reallllly worked to cut out and cut back on sugar and sweets, and double my fish intake. I'm getting prepared for my annual physical in a few months and I'm hoping and praying my numbers will show my extra efforts. :)

As a "Go Red For Women" wanna-be-ambassador, education is POWER. It is sooo important that we all know our risk factors and what the signs and symptoms of a heart attack or a stroke are. I especially put my focus on the ladies.

I gathered some information from the AHA:

What Is Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Most heart and blood vessel problems develop over time and occur when your arteries develop atherosclerosis, a process that begins in childhood and involves a gradual buildup of plaque inside your arteries.

Plaque contains fat, cholesterol and other substances, and can grow large enough to significantly reduce blood flow through an artery. Most of the damage occurs when a plaque becomes fragile and ruptures. Plaques that rupture can cause blood clots to form. These clots can block blood flow at the site of the rupture or can break off and travel through the artery to another part of the body. If either happens and blocks an artery that feeds the heart or brain, it causes a heart attack or stroke.

  • Heart Attack
From my experience working in the ER... I've seen many heart attacks. They all look different. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often the people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Women especially are prone to "wait" because they had to get the kids from school or finish dinner....

Here are some signs a heart attack may be happening:
  • 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 may occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs of discomfort. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
 * Ladies - also go with your GUT. "Impending doom" is often a symptom most women I've encountered say they felt... "They just didn't feel right."

What Is Stroke?
Stroke, the #3 killer of women, is a type of vascular disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke occurs when an artery that carries blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain either bursts or is blocked by a clot. When that happens, part of the brain can't get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it starts to die.

When part of the brain dies from lack of blood flow, the part of the body it controls is affected. Strokes can cause paralysis, affect language and vision, and cause other problems. Seeking early treatment can minimize the potentially devastating effects of stroke, but to receive them, a person must recognize the warning signs and act quickly.

A Stroke is a medical emergency. Learn to recognize a stroke, because any delay in treatment can lead to brain damage. Warning signs may include:
  • 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 these warning signs occur in every stroke. If you or someone with you has one or more stroke symptoms that last more than a few minutes, don't delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 so an ambulance (and if your lucky, my brother-in-law) can quickly be sent to you.**

Also, check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared. It's very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.

It is NEVER too early or too late to think about your heart health (or our children). I'll post more information on prevention this week. Stay tuned...

Listen to your heartbeat every now and then. It works very hard for you! Be kind in return.

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