By Colette Panchot
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with one in four Americans at risk for heart disease, most without prior symptoms. According to the 2023 Statistical Update, on average 2,544 people in the United States die each day from heart disease, while strokes claim on average 439 lives each day.
Cardiologist Gerald Mancuso, MD. of the Healient Physician Group at St. Joseph Medical Center recently made a community presentation that highlighted the prevalence and risk factors of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the lifestyle choices that can prevent CVD and stroke, as well as how to recognize the symptoms and take quick action.
Dr. Mancuso explained that hypertension, also known as high blood pressure (a reading that exceeds 130/80) is “rampant” and that regular blood pressure screening is important. Other major risk factors are obesity, diabetes, a diet of highly processed and salty foods, a sedentary lifestyle and lack of sufficient exercise, smoking or using e-cigarettes, and not getting enough sleep. He added that blood cholesterol is another risk factor, with LDL levels above 130, but that 80-85 percent of one’s cholesterol levels are hereditary. Statin prescription drugs have proven effective for decades in controlling high LDLs, with only 5 percent of users having side effects.
Participants also practiced hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with electronic mannequins and used an automated external defibrillator (AED) that shocks the heart back into rhythm. When someone collapses with sudden cardiac arrest, which causes an irregular heartbeat and disrupts the flow of blood to the brain, lungs, and other organs, their survival depends on immediately receiving CPR, as brain damage can occur within only four minutes without CPR.
The first step in hands-only CPR is to call 911. Second, push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of a fast song such as “Stayin’ Alive” or “Another One Bites the Dust,” songs that have 100-120 beats per minute. Hands-only CPR does not require mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, only vigorous, deep, and rhythmic heart pumping even if ribs are broken in the process, until the person’s pulse returns. Click here for an online instructional video.
Sam Bundren is living proof of the life-saving value of quickly administering CPR and AEDs. At age 17, the Lee’s Summit High School senior experienced sudden cardiac arrest during soccer practice. His teammate Brendan Adams started CPR immediately and the team’s trainer Angela Oswald used an AED, and he was responsive by the time the ambulance arrived.
Following open heart surgery, Bundren was back on the soccer field six weeks later and is fielding offers to play collegiate soccer, according to his mother, Nikki Bundren, who shared her family’s story for the first time publicly at the presentation. “CPR and AEDs save lives,” she said. “There needs to be more AEDs around.”
Learn to recognize warning signs of a heart attack:
- Pain or discomfort in the chest
- Lightheadedness, nausea, or vomiting
- Jaw, neck, or back pain
- Shortness of breath
- Discomfort or pain in the arm or shoulder
- Women are more likely to have heart attacks at older ages than men. Women are also more likely to feel heart attack symptoms in the absence of chest discomfort.
Remember stroke warning signs with F.A.S.T:
F: Face drooping: Does one side of the face numb droop or is numb? Is the person’s smile uneven?
A: Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S: Speech Difficulty: Is their speech slurred?
T: Time to call 911!
Other sudden stroke symptoms may include confusion, numbness or weakness in the legs, trouble seeing on one or both eyes, trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, and or a severe headache with no known cause.
Dr. Mancuso also recommended following the “Healthy For Good” physical activity program of the American Health Association to help prevent CVD and stroke:
Fit in 150+ —The number of recommended minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activities, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity. Dr. Mancuso said studies show those who exercise 400 minutes per week showed no gain in heart-healthy benefits.
Move more, sit less —Even light-intensity activity can reduce the health risks of being sedentary
Add intensity—Increase your heart rate and breathe harder than during normal activities.
Add muscle—Use moderate- to high-intensity resistance or weight training at least twice a week.
Heart-healthy eating habits include eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins such as legumes, nuts, fish, and seafood, low-fat and nonfat dairy, unprocessed lean meats and poultry, minimizing the intake of added sugars, choosing foods prepared with little or no salt, and limiting or preferably eliminating alcohol intake.
St. Joseph Medical Center, an accredited Chest Pain Center at 10000 Carondelet Drive in Kansas City, Mo., offers $40 Coronary Calcium Scans to discover the presence of deadly calcification in heart arteries by calling 816-943-4799.