Wear Red promotes women’s heart health

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Horizon Health of Paris sponsored an “At the Heart of it All” luncheon Feb. 1 at the Human Resources Center’s Café France, and this was the sixth year for a Wear Red event to kick off Heart Health Month in Paris. Erin Frank, Cindy Belt and Christina Hoffman were in charge of the event and a delicious lunch of brie and apple stuffed chicken topped with a delightful chutney sauce was served.

The American Heart Association has designated the first Friday in February as National Wear Red Day in support of Women’s Heart Initiative. The color red is the color of one’s heart, we celebrate Valentine’s Day with red hearts and red is a symbol of power. Power is the key to winning the fight for women and healthy hearts. One must take charge of their lifestyle to prevent heart problems.

Special guest speaker was Maria Horvat. She is the newest staff physician at Horizon Health and brings to the community a female OB/GYN, which Paris has not had for many years. Horvat has over 30 years of experience and while her specialty is not heart related she gave some great advice on what women should be doing to have healthy hearts.

Statistics show that one in three women die of heart issues whereas one in 31 die of breast cancer. Many people think breast cancer is the big killer in women but Horvat said 430,000 women will die of heart and stroke issues in a year and 40,000 will die of breast cancer. That means approximately every 80 seconds a woman dies from heart or stroke issues. She also said 80 percent of stroke and heart issues can be slowed down or prevented.

One of the most important things one can do is not smoke. While smoking has slowed considerably in the past several years there are still many people who smoke, especially young people. Smoking is the most addictive activity there is.

Horvat said not smoking can reduce the risk of heart disease by 50-70 percent. Smoking affects not only the heart but can also clog the veins in the neck leading to the brain. This is a formula for stroke and many times people with lack of oxygen to the brain will become confused. She mentioned a time when a delivery person stopped in the office and could not figure out where he was. He was having a stroke and fortunately received needed medical care immediately.

Exercise and good dietary habits are other ways to help prevent heart disease. She recommended 30 minutes, five times a week of exercise as a great way to improve heart health.

Those who say there is no time to exercise, may be surprised by how every little bit helps. People can walk up stairs instead of taking the elevator. Instead of trying to get the closest parking space, park further away and walk those extra steps. Put on some active dance music when doing housework. It not only provides exercise but the housework may get done at a faster pace. A recent trend among office workers is standing at a desk rather than sitting. It takes more energy to stand than sit so this approach also works in the kitchen by standing to chopping vegetables instead of sitting while cooking.

Maintain a healthy weight. There are several online sources for checking body mass index or BMI. Enter the information and the website determines if a person has an acceptable BMI.

Everyone should know by now that a healthy diet includes leafy greens, low fat, less meat and lower carbohydrates. Chocolate is not bad, as long as it is dark chocolate, and red wine is OK, also. Moderation is the key. For diabetics, good blood sugar control is important. People also need to make sure cholesterol is checked and is at a healthy level.

There are some factors, which are beyond our control. Some families have a history of heart disease and these people should be especially careful. High cholesterol can be an issue in families and if it is, make sure this is monitored.

High blood pressure can also be a problem in some families. Make sure that is in control and a low salt diet can help keep this at a more acceptable level. Too much caffeine and stress causes blood pressure to increase. Watching a funny video and laughing out loud are actually good ways to reduce stress and decrease blood pressure.

Horvat said the broken heart syndrome is real. On occasion the expression is used, “that just breaks my heart,” when someone is sad, but broken heart syndrome is really a stress induced cardiomyopathy.

It is more likely to occur in women than men and can be brought on by stress hormones caused by the death of a loved one, divorce, a romantic rejection or separation. One might experience intense chest pain and part of the heart will temporarily enlarge and not pump as well while the rest of the heart will work OK. The bad news is this can lead to severe short-term heart muscle failure. The good news is this is usually treatable and most people recover within weeks and never have the problem again.

This February celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving a sweetheart and the family the best gift possible – be in control of how you treat your body. Make it a good one.