LIVING HEALTHY – DR. ROBIN MILLERA recent survey of around 1000 men and women over aged 18 conducted at the Cleveland Clinic found that the majority of those surveyed did not understand the risks of heart disease and the actions needed to prevent it. In addition, despite all the efforts (in the last many years) to educate the public, most were unaware of the signs of a heart attack.   The reasons for this are unclear.  However, I suspect that many of us live in the land of denial.  We do not think that a heart attack will happen to us so we simply put our heads in the sand. Others may be confused due to conflicting media stories regarding treatments and supplements.  et’s try and clear things up, shall we? First of all, heart disease is the number one killer of men and women. Therefore, we all need to increase our awareness of the risk factors and signs of this devastating disease. We will start with the symptoms. 

How do you know if you are having a heart attack? Men and women often show different signs.  Men typically will feel like an elephant is sitting on their chest with pain that also goes into the neck and down the left arm.  It is often accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, and nausea, overwhelming fatigue and in some cases a sense of doom.  

Women may experience the above as well, however they are more likely to feel like they have a bad case of the flu with severe fatigue, abdominal discomfort or heartburn, jaw pain, trouble sleeping, and/or anxiety. 

Do vitamins help? Of those surveyed, 44% thought there were vitamins that can lower cholesterol and 61% believed that vitamins and supplements help prevent heart disease.  I wish that were true but it is not.  Fish oil supplements help to lower triglyceride levels but have not been found to prevent heart disease or heart failure.  Supplements such as Resveratrol and grape seed extract in theory may help in the prevention of heart disease but there is no scientific evidence in humans that they do. 

What about salt? Salt increases blood pressure.  Unfortunately, the majority of Americans have no idea where it is hiding. Most of us are unaware of the fact that bread has more salt than cheese. Soup is considered a healthy meal.  However, many of the canned or instant soups have extremely high salt contents.  Bottled salad dressings are another source of high levels of salt that we don’t usually think about. 

What about the heart disease gene? No one has found a gene that causes heart disease although 60% of Americans think that they have.  However, there is a hereditary component to heart disease risk.  If you have a first degree relative who had a heart attack that does up your risk. It does not mean you will have a heart attack.  My father-in-law’s father died at the age of 50 of a massive heart attack.  He was sure he would meet the same fate.  However, he is 90 and still going strong. 

How do you prevent heart disease? The best way to prevent heart disease is to maintain a normal blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, avoid becoming overweight or obese, exercise, and eat a heart healthy, Mediterranean style diet. If you smoke, quit and learn healthy ways to manage stress. Meet with your doctor on a regular basis so that you can make sure you maintain optimum health and manage your risks. 

AND, stay properly informed about what to look for and avoid when it comes to preventing and treating the disease. 

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