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Heart Month Reminds Public to Put Health First

A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
February is National Heart Month and also the time when people “Go Red for Women.”

These efforts are aimed at promoting awareness of heart disease.

This month, local groups have been featured in the workplace and on the news wearing red to promote heart health and healthy lifestyles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one killer in New York and mortality rates from heart disease in the U.S. actually rose in 2015, stalling four decades of overall decline.

Many know firsthand how heart disease impacts a person’s quality of life.

A person’s mobility may be limited after a heart attack.

Also, many who have suffered from a heart attack experience fear and anxiety that another heart attack will occur, which impacts their emotional and mental health.

In addition to lifestyle challenges, heart disease also costs the state significant money.

In 2016, the total cost for cardiovascular disease in New York was estimated to be $22.6 billion.

Sadly, these costs are expected to soar in the coming years and surpass costs associated with other chronic diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

For these reasons, health care experts are focused on preventative efforts and helping people understand the benefits of good care and a healthy lifestyle.

Public health outreach campaigns and awareness months have been successful teaching the public on how to diminish the risk of heart disease.

Death rates from heart disease started to decline in the 1970s when anti-smoking campaigns began and people began to learn the associated risks.

There also have been advancements in medicines designed to control high blood pressure and cholesterol which have been successful for patients in preventing heart disease.

While medications to control high blood pressure and cholesterol are effective, a larger and more difficult problem is obesity.

Researchers had predicted that heart disease would drop below cancer as the leading cause of death but, sadly, that has not been the case due to high obesity rates.

Obesity can cause high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other heart-related problems, all of which contributes to the higher rates of heart disease.

In New York, 61% of people are overweight or obese.

The effort to educate and promote preventative care has become more important with this new data.

To draw attention on a statewide level to preventative care, and to support local and national health outreach efforts, the State Assembly passed a resolution declaring Feb. 3 as “Go Red for Women.”

The purpose of the resolution is to help educate the public on the importance of knowing the signs of heart attack, stroke, and the importance of having regular medical checkups.

The American Heart Association began its “wear red” for women campaign in 2003 in attempt to educate the public about the different symptoms men and women experience during a heart attack.

For example, women are more likely to have nausea or stomach pain, dizziness and light-headedness, back or jaw pain when experiencing a heart attack and men typically experience left-arm weakness, shortness of breath and a heaviness across the chest.

Until recently, the symptoms for women were not widely known.

There are many online resources available on how to prevent heart disease.

Health care experts say small changes can make big differences toward prevention.

Daily exercise such as walking and eating right, taking medication or quitting smoking can greatly reduce a person’s risks of heart disease.

To learn more visit the American Heart Association’s site at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/ , the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention site on heart disease, https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/index.htm and MillionHearts,  https://millionhearts.hhs.gov/learn-prevent/index.html.

The MillionHeart site features video testimonials from people who have experienced a heart attack.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me.

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.

You also can friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.