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Odds of developing heart disease reduced by healthy choices

February 09, 2004

In 2003, cardiovascular disease was listed as the reason for admission in more than 6 million hospitalizations. Many factors increase a person's risk for developing heart disease; some of them can be controlled. These are called modifiable risk factors.

One in every five deaths due to heart disease is caused by smoking. According to Pam Peitz, manager of Washington County Hospital's Cardiac Rehab and Congestive Heart Failure programs, quitting smoking greatly reduces one's risk of heart disease.

Having high blood cholesterol also increases the risk of heart disease. This can be controlled by eating a diet low in fat and cholesterol and high in fiber. In addition to diet, some people will need medication to help control their blood cholesterol.

High blood pressure also contributes to heart disease and many people do not even know they have high blood pressure. It is important to be screened for high blood pressure and treat it with medication if needed.

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"The relationship between sedentary lifestyle and heart disease is becoming increasingly apparent," Peitz said. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 60 percent or more of Americans do not achieve the recommended amount of exercise.

Another significant risk factor for heart disease is diabetes. People with diabetes have the same level of risk for having a heart attack as a person who already has had a heart attack. It is especially important for diabetics to control all of the other risk factors for heart disease.

Overall, a person can reduce the risk of heart disease by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as following a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking and controlling diabetes and high blood pressure.

- 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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