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Lifestyle, communication can help prevent heart disease

February 02, 2004|by Christine L. Moats

Cardiovascular or heart disease is the leading cause of illness and death in the United States and accounts for more than 50 percent of all deaths. A multitude of factors that can increase a person's risk for cardiovascular disease. Some of those can be controlled by behavioral choices, such as smoking and eating habits. However, there are other factors that an individual cannot control.

Heredity, age, gender and race are among the factors that increase the risk for heart disease.

According to Pam Peitz, manager of Washington County Hospital's Cardiac Rehab and Congestive Heart Failure programs, probably the most significant factor is a family history of premature heart disease. Premature heart disease is defined as heart disease that develops in men younger than 55, and in women younger than 65. Women tend to develop heart disease about 10 years later than men. If a person has a parent or sibling who developed premature heart disease, it greatly increases the likelihood that they too will develop heart disease at an early age.

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The risk of developing heart disease increases with age for both men and women. Blacks have a greater risk for heart disease partially due to a tendency to develop hypertension at a younger age. Living with hypertension, or high blood pressure, increases the chances of developing cardiovascular disease.

Overall, the best protection against heart disease for anyone is to make healthy lifestyle choices and inform their health-care providers of family history so proper precautions can be taken.

Heart disease will be a continuing topic in this column for the next three Mondays. Look for more information on modifiable risk factors, prevention and the latest research on heart disease.

- Sources: "Guidelines for Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention Programs," American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, 2004 edition; "Heart and Stroke Statistical Update," American Heart Association, 1999.




Christine L. Moats is a wellness coordinator at Washington County Hospital.

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