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February is National Heart Month

During the month of February the American Heart Association promotes “Go Red for Women”, which is an educational movement about women and cardiovascular disease.

Ever since 2004, Feb. 7 has been known as National Wear Red Day.

Go Red for Women is a campaign to get the message out that heart disease is not only a man’s problem. According to the American Heart Association heart disease kills an estimated 630,000 Americans each year, and is the leading cause of death in men and women.

Women who go red are helping uncover the truth about heart disease and have made incredible improvements in their heart health.

Some factors that can increase risk for heart disease is an unhealthy diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, physical inactivity, and being overweight or obese.

An AHA survey showed most people don’t connect important risk factors such as poor diet or physical inactivity with heart disease and stroke. According to the Center of Disease Control, there are many factors associated with smoking alone that will increase your risk. It decreases the tolerance for physical activity, the chance of blood clots is greater and smoking can decrease your good cholesterol and can cause an increased risk of stroke.    

When women take oral contraceptives and smoke they are at higher risk of a stroke, and people who smoke cigars and pipes are also at risk.

St. Francois County Health Department Community Health Nurse Lynn Blackwell said because of the Go Red effort, 34 percent fewer women are dying from heart disease now.

“Smoking has decreased by 15 percent. High cholesterol has declined by 18 percent, and 64 percent eat healthier diets. So this promotion has been very successful in saving lives and improving the quality of life,” said Blackwell.

Taking action to keep heart healthy is important because heart disease is the number one killer in the world. But many Americans are unaware that they may be at risk. One in every three women dies from heart disease.

Blackwell said 64 percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms, but there could be symptoms just as well.    

“Heart disease can hit women at any age in life and has killed more women than the next five leading causes of death combined. So it’s something to take very seriously,” said Blackwell.

Some signs of a heart attack are discomfort in the chest, back, arms, jaw and neck, feeling out of breath, tired or fatigued, nausea, dizzy and lightheaded. It could also be a combination of those things, and the symptoms may come and go.

Blackwell said if it’s something out of the ordinary, don’t hesitate, go to the emergency room.  

“If you’re having any discomfort in your chest that is unusual and lasts for more than a few minutes or comes and goes, don’t ignore it, or if someone doesn’t normally have heartburn and is not relieved by an antacid, they really need to pay attention to that,” she said.

There are simple lifestyle changes you can make that will help in preventing heart disease, together and on their own. They include:

• Lose and maintain a healthy weight. Just that alone will reduce your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol;

• Eat healthier, cut out processed food and sugary drinks, especially ones containing aspartame (which is in all artificial sweeteners), high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, and salt;

• Get active, exercising daily will not only help maintain proper weight, but will also make you feel better and give you more energy;

• Manage blood pressure;

• Reduce blood sugar;

• Stop smoking. Smoking prevents oxygen from reaching your heart, brain and arteries and one year after quitting, will cut your risk in half;

• Control cholesterol;

• Know family history, it can make all the difference knowing that you may already be at risk hereditarily.

Many things can put you at risk and there are ones you can control and others that you can’t. Making positive changes in anyone of these areas can make a difference in your health and with the right information, education and care, heart disease can be prevented and treated.

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Go Red For Women sign hanging up at the St. Francois County Health Department.

Go Red For Women sign hanging up at the St. Francois County Health Department.

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or

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