Take preventable measures to avoid deadly disease
Heart disease, known as the silent killer, strikes someone about once every 43 seconds and is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, killing over 375,000 people a year. About 735,000 people in the United State have heart attacks each year. Of those, about 120,000 die.
Sarah Baker, regional director of the American Heart Association in NWLA, is just one of the many men and women standing up to make a difference and raise awareness of heart disease.
“If I do my job, I can make an impact on the health of our community, and research for heart disease and stroke will be funded right here in Shreveport,” Baker said.
“Louisiana is the unhealthiest state in our country.”
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans, as well as the No. 1 killer of all those living in Louisiana. Yet, Baker said, heart disease is 80 percent preventable.
“Heart disease is taking too many of our friends and family,” said Baker. “We need to take action to change this.”
Prevention is key. There are several habits people of all ages can start doing, at any age in life, to help reduce their risk of heart disease. These steps are known as Life’s Simple 7. These seven steps include: getting active, controlling your cholesterol, eating healthier, managing your blood pressure, losing weight, reducing your blood sugar and stopping smoking.
“The biggest risk factors for heart disease are smoking, having a high sodium diet, drinking lots of sugary beverages, being inactive and not knowing your family history,” Baker said. “Diet and exercise is very important to having a healthy heart. You have to put good fuel in the take to get good results.”
Many people make the mistake of thinking it’s too late for them to start worrying about heart disease now – that they’ve lived so many years in an unhealthy manner, that it’s pointless to take action now. That’s simply not the case.
“There’s always time to make a change for the better,” Baker said. “You may have done damage, but the only way to have a chance at a better quality of life is to start living healthier today. The great thing is that you can make a small change to make a big impact in your heart health.”
The opposite is also true. It’s never too young to start being concerned and taking proactive steps to be healthy. “Heart disease does not care if you’re two, 22 or 82,” Baker said. “It doesn’t care if you’re a student, married or single, or even if you’re a man or woman. It’s a silent killer that we need to stop in our communities.”
Baker advises those who are not active to start walking 20 minutes a day. “Walking each day can drastically reduce your risk of heart disease,” Baker said. “If you find yourself eating a lot of prepackaged foods, start incorporating fresh veggies and fruits into your diet. This will lower sodium amounts in your diet.”
Baker strongly encourages removing salt from the table, and stop drinking sugary drinks – to be replaced with unsweet tea.
She noticed a big change in her own health after taking those simple steps.
“Also, get to know your family history. You have clues that lie in your family tree that could impact how soon you should start seeing a doctor to have your heart checked. Know your numbers, attend a free health fair and have your blood pressure and cholesterol taken,” Baker said.
“These two things can tell you a lot about your risk of heart disease.”
For locals, it’s important to know that all the money raised in NWLA through local efforts stays in NWLA, to support research at LSU Health.
In July 2014, the American Heart Association granted over $700,000 in research funding to LSU Health.
“People don’t realize that what we do locally really does make an impact,” Baker said. “I want to look back in a year and say, wow, we aren’t the most unhealthy state anymore! And it’s because of the work we’ve done right here in NWLA – to encourage heart healthy habits.
“Heart disease is 80 percent preventable, so let’s start fighting this silent killer by making small changes to improve our lives,” Baker said. “We all have a heart, and it’s our job to keep it healthy so that we can continue to live and make a difference in this world for the better.”
For more information on how to live healthy, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, and find fitness tips and healthy recipes, visit www.heart.org.