Health Tips You Should Take To Heart

American women and heart disease

The American Heart Association has dubbed February, American Heart Month — intensifying efforts to educate women on the dangers of heart disease and stroke. This year’s theme, “Each one, Reach one”, encourages women to become more aware of the dangers of heart disease and stroke, and to pass that knowledge on to other women. The facts are sobering:

Coronary heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American females.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death for women in the United States — and the No. 1 cause of serious, long term disability.

More women die from heart disease and stroke than men — half a million deaths each year.

Women are more likely to die from heart disease or stroke than the next 16 leading causes of death combined.

A recent AHA survey showed that only 8 percent of American women believe that heart disease, heart attack or stroke is one of the most serious health problems facing them today.

The University of Michigan has experts available on a wide variety of issues related to the heart, both inside and outside the medical arena.

At U-M, however, a comprehensive three-pronged approach ensures heart attack patients get key diagnostic and treatment strategies. First, medical staff are updated every month on the latest treatments.

Second, the medical team and the patient follow a “critical pathway” where activity, educational, diagnostic and treatment milestones are met each day. Finally, the patient must sign a statement before being discharged, acknowledging they understand what has occurred, what the treatment goals are, which life style and medical interventions improve outcome, and how to manage the often difficult transition from inpatient care back into the home.

“By engineering our care to focus proven strategies to the cardiologist, nurse and patient, we have seen remarkable success in ensuring reliable quality outcomes for our patients,” says Kim Eagle, M.D., chief of clinical cardiology at the U-M.

Women present unique problems and need greater awareness when it comes to combating heart disease and stroke: Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women — but the differences in terms of risk, prevention and treatment are very distinct for men and women, according to Lori Mosca, M.D., PhD., director of preventive cardiology research and education programs at U-M. Mosca says since most women don’t realize how serious the threat of heart disease is, they aren’t taking necessary steps to prevent heart disease and stroke.

However, making these changes is often easier said than done. The University of Michigan’s Preventive Cardiology Services take a comprehensive approach to help patients make lifestyle changes.

“We evaluate the medical and psychosocial issues facing our patients by offering traditional medical intervention as well as management for the emotional issues that are often at the root of heart disease,” says Melvyn Rubenfire, M.D., professor of internal medicine and director of preventive cardiology at the U-M Health System.

Patients are taught how to eat well throughout their life, how to make exercise fun and stick with it, and how to reduce stress, combat depression and raise self esteem. “When you significantly improve your life habits and choices,” says Rubenfire, “you can truly slow the progression of, or even prevent, heart disease.”

Quality care after heart attack is vital: U-M develops unique strategy to ensure patients get best medical care. University of Michigan cardiologists have developed a creative new program that provides heart attack patients with the best treatment available by emphasizing a team approach to recovery between the patient, doctor and nurse.

Studies have shown that many of the 12 strategies that are known to improve survival and/or quality of life in heart attack victims are not always included in patient treatment. Often, important medications — such as beta-blockers, cholesterol lowering drugs or ACE inhibitors — are not prescribed. Additionally, many patient lifestyle changes are not included as part of the post-heart attack treatment strategy.

Conditions such as diabetes can put a woman at greater risk and hormonal status may create unique risk factors. Mosca says there is also new research indicating lifestyle changes are beneficial to women.

Mosca is currently coordinating several research studies at U-M in cardiovascular disease and women. She is a member of the AHA’s Women’s Heart Disease and Stroke Campaign Task Force — and is author and chair of the AHA’s New Scientific Statement on “Cardiovascular Disease in Women”.

Take steps to stop heart disease before it stops you: Research shows that more than 50 percent of heart-related deaths could be prevented if patients made lifestyle changes and stuck to their medical treatment. Eating better, quitting smoking, exercising and losing weight are a few of the things people can do to take control of their health, prevent heart disease and possibly even reverse its progress.

Lower Your Disease And Heart Attack Risk.

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