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Hypertension, blood pressure major contributors to heart disease

Amanda Holt Miller
Post Independent Staff

More people in the United States die of heart disease than any other type of disease or illness, according to the American Heart Association.

That’s why it’s important for people to take care of themselves and know how to identify symptoms of heart disease.

“Prevention, of course, is the key,” said Ann Cox, the nurse practitioner for Dr. Carlos Albrecht, a cardiologist at Valley View Hospital. “And basic prevention has everything to do with lifestyle modification.”



Cox said people need to be careful to maintain a healthy diet, keep their weight down, watch their blood pressure and visit the doctor regularly.

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a major issue, Cox said.



“They call it the silent killer sometimes because people don’t seek medical attention for it because a lot of times they don’t realize they have it,” Cox said. “You can get it checked with your doctor or there are machines in different places like the grocery store or Wal-Mart. If you notice any elevations, you should contact your doctor.”

The problem with high blood pressure is that it puts added strain on the heart, said Spencer Aikin, manager of the cardiopulmonary department at Grand River Medical Center in Rifle.

Often, a person’s blood pressure can drop as much as 10 points when they lose 10-20 pounds if they’re overweight, Cox said.

Not all elements of heart disease can be controlled by lifestyle choices, however.

“Some people can’t get their cholesterol down because it’s genetic,” Cox said. “That’s when medications come in.”

That’s also when regular testing becomes especially important, Aikin said.

“Someone who has a family history of heart disease should probably make an EKG (electrocardiogram) part of a regular check up after a certain age ” say 40,” Aikin said. “An EKG is really the first line of defense against heart disease. It’s an easy, inexpensive test that only takes about five minutes.”

Aikin said an EKG is a two-dimensional image that can reveal many abnormalities and problems with the heart that could include blockage, which could eventually lead to a heart attack.

When it comes to heart attacks, the important thing is knowing how to identify the symptoms, Cox said.

“People deny that it’s happening and put off getting medical attention,” Cox said. “There is really a ‘golden hour’ when people should go to the hospital.”

Cox said heart attack symptoms include things like chest pressure, indigestion and pain in the neck or arm.

“It’s mostly a heaviness,” Cox said. “It’s important that people get help right away.”

Contact Amanda Holt Miller: 625-3245 ext. 103

ahmiller@postindependent.com


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