February marks Heart Month, a time to increase awareness and diligence for a healthy heart and lifestyle. Heart disease, the leading cause of death in both men and women, results in 610,000 deaths per year. The American Heart Association reports that 1 in every 3 deaths will be related to heart disease. Many think of heart disease as referring to coronary artery disease which leads to heart attack but in fact heart disease includes: coronary heart disease, which accounts for the largest percentage of deaths, stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, diseases of the arteries and other heart problems such as valve dysfunction.

The statistics are worrisome and while there are certain factors that may increase the risk for heart disease that can not be changed there are far more factors that can be modified or controlled to decrease the risk of heart disease and increase chances of a longer, healthier life.


One of the risk factors that cannot be changed is heredity or genetics. If your family member has heart disease, including hypertension, then you are at greater risk for developing heart disease. Race affects the likelihood of developing heart disease. African-Americans have a higher rate of severe hypertension and the rate of heart disease is also higher among Mexican-Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians and some Asian-Americans. This may be related to higher rates of obesity and diabetes. Men have higher rates of heart attack than women although 1 in 3 women will die of heart disease.. And, finally, aging unfortunately presents a greater risk for heart disease — risks go up over the age of 65.

Since the new year has begun, it's all about poop. Yep that's right poop. I'm not sure whether it's a phenomenon like the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter aligns with Mars ... or if it's just the inevitable cycle of life, where bowel functions seem to occupy the minds of many. Or maybe it could be related to all the junk we may have put in our bodies during the holidays.

So what can we all do to decrease our risk of heart disease? The American Heart Association has compiled a list they refer to as "Life's Simple 7." At the top of the list is smoking.

No. 1: Smoking is a huge risk factor for heart disease and heart attack. Beginning a smoking cessation program can have a significant impact on your health.

No. 2: Physical activity can impact heart disease. At least 30 minutes of exercise at least three times per week is recommended. Start slow and increase and remember 30 minutes can be broken up into smaller increments through the day to increase endurance.

No. 3: Nutrition or diet contributes to a healthy heart in many aspects. In fact the next four of the Simple 7 are directly related to nutrition.

No. 4: Overweight/Obesity is recognized as a leading risk factor for heart disease.

No. 5: High cholesterol, which comes from foods high in fat and cholesterol, leads to plaque in the arteries restricting blood flow to the heart.

No. 6: High blood pressure, which affects 34 percent of Americans, is a risk factor that can be controlled with better nutrition, exercise and management with medications. The AHA sites that only 46.6 percent of those with hypertension have it under control and 24 percent do not use medication to control the disease.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a serious health threat. The American Urological Association reports that urinary tract infection (UTI) is a significant health problem in both community and hospital-based settings. It is estimated that 150 million UTIs occur yearly worldwide, accounting for $6 billion in health care expenses. In Medicare beneficiaries 65 years or older, UTIs account for 1.8 million office visits per year.

No. 7: Type 2 Diabetes is a preventable and controllable disease that has a considerable effect on heart disease and overall health.

How do we put this all together to have a healthier lifestyle and an overall better quality of life? We are fortunate in Carroll County to have "The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County" which has assessed the needs of the community and sets goals for all us to live healthier.

The Partnership gives us many opportunities for getting informed and getting moving. Their Lean Carroll Program focuses on Lifestyle, Education, Activity, and Nutrition; L.E.A.N. Carroll is a family-based approach to promoting behaviors that help children and adults maintain healthy weights and prevent chronic disease. Walk Carroll is a wonderful, free program that brings people together to get moving while providing opportunity for learning about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

The most important steps we can all take to better heart health, brain health and ultimately better overall health are to be active, eat wisely, increase fruits and vegetables and decrease sugar and salt, and foods in high unhealthy fats and cholesterol, and stop smoking.

Review the signs of heart attack and act fast if you experience symptoms:

•Chest pain or discomfort that does not subside after a few minutes;


•Weakness, lightheadedness, nausea or a cold sweat;

•Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder;

•Shortness of breath.

Do not ignore symptoms. Call 911 — better to err on the side of caution than second-guess yourself. For more resources, visit www.healthycarroll.org.

Jill Rosner is a registered nurse, certified geriatric care manager and owner of Rosner Healthcare Navigation. She provides patient advocacy and care management services to clients with health and aging issues. Contact her at JillRosnerRN@aol.com.