Assembly Raises Awareness About Heart Defects and Disease

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
February is American Heart Month.

To help recognize the importance of heart health, the Assembly passed two resolutions this month, one for those who are born with heart defects and one for those who later develop heart disease.

A Day for Hearts

The  ‘A Day for Hearts,’ resolution  proclaims Feb. 14 as Congenital Heart Defect Awareness day.

Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) are defects that exist at birth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 40,000 children are born with some kind of heart defect in the U.S. and they are the leading cause of death for children.  There are 35 recognized congenital heart defects.  These defects can often be treated with medicine, therapy, surgery or a combination of all three.

With the advancement of medicine, CHDs can now very often be detected and treated during pregnancy.

This is another reason why prenatal care is so important.  Early detection can lead to better treatment and a better outcome for the infant.

In 2013, New York enacted a law which I co-sponsored that required birthing facilities across the state to test newborns for congenital heart defects through the use of pulse oximetry.

Pulse oximetry is an inexpensive and non-invasive test that measures a baby’s blood oxygenation levels.  Low oxygenation levels can be a symptom of a heart defect.

Heart Disease Awareness

The second resolution the Assembly passed declared Feb. 5 as Wear Red for Women Day.

This resolution was passed in conjunction with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women National Campaign.

It’s important to draw attention to this public health concern at both the state and local level since so many people, both men and women, are affected.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 610,000 people die of heart disease each year, one in four people.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease.

Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease.

These conditions and lifestyle choices include diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use.

Heart disease can also cause stroke and heart attacks.

Signs and symptoms of a stroke include slurred speech, drooping of the face, and weakness in one arm.

If someone exhibits one or more of these signs, health experts say it’s best to call 911.

The five major symptoms of a heart attack are pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back; feeling weak, light-headed, or faint; chest pain or discomfort; pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder; and shortness of breath.

Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting, which are more common for women.

To learn more about heart disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control website at or the American Heart Association at

For help on preventing heart disease, talk to your doctor about a diet and exercise plan that’s right for you.

There are several local resources as well.

The Onondaga County Health Department can be reached at 315-435-3280.  Oswego County Health Department can be reached at 315-349-3547 and Jefferson County Health Department can be reached at 315-786-3720.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.

My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.

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