Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: Heart

1. February is American Heart Month, and not just because of Valentine’s Day. *

2. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. In 2005, 652,091 people died of heart disease (50.5% of them women). That means that 222 out of every 100,000 people annually. The age-adjusted death rates for diseases of the heart was 211.1 deaths per 100,000 for all Americans. The age-adjusted death rate for whites was 207.8, and 271.3 for African Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control website.

3. My grandfather on January 2, 1976, at the young age of 56, died when his heart gave out. I was 12 years old and had spent the night with him and my grandmother. I watched in horror as rescue personnel wheeled him out of the house. The next morning my mother came in to tell me and her brothers that her daddy was dead. He left my grandmother with two young sons still at home. I was the oldest of his grandchildren, and I am sorry to say that I don’t remember much about him. But looking back on that event, I do recall that he hadn’t felt well for several weeks prior to his death. He was thin and strong, but he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. He ignored whatever his warning signs were. He was not a man to go to the doctor; I’m not sure he even had a doctor. Maybe if he had paid more attention, he would have lived to dance at my wedding; it was only nine years later, after all.

4. A lot of older folks live in my county. Fourteen percent of our population is over the age of 65; almost 80 percent are over the age of 18. Our median age is 42.7 years; we’re not spring chickens.

5. So it’s important that we all combat heart disease by watching what we eat, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising.

6. Take the time to learn about nutrition. Understanding fats, for example, can be important in weight loss and overall health. If you’re like me and can’t figure out the difference between a good fat and bad fat, this is probably a needed lesson. Some fats raise cholesterol; others don’t. The really bad ones are saturated fats (animal meats) and hydrogenated fats (margarine and butter). Fats found in fish and nuts are better for you, but all fat should be limited to less than a third of your caloric intake.

7. A Mediterranean type diet is thought to be heart healthy, so think of Greece when you’re shopping.

8. If you’re overweight, losing the pounds can be exceedingly difficult. It is important to keep trying, though. You never know what will work for you. Maybe you just need a weight loss buddy.

8. As for exercise, finding the time for that can be difficult, but experts now say 10 minute spurts three times a day is as helpful as a 30 minute walk. All physical activity adds up to a healthier heart.

9. My efforts at exercise lately have taken the form of the Wii Fit video game for 30 minutes a day on top of 20 to 30 minutes of bicycling or walking. It is not the end-all to my weight woes, but hopefully it is making me fitter while I’m having fun. And it’s certainly better than nothing.

10. A heart attack can be sudden or it can build up. Sometimes it happens just like in the movies, but often there are warning signs. Chest discomfort is typical and should not be ignored. It feels like an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

11. Other signs are:
• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
• Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

12. Call 911 immediately if you suspect a heart problem. Do not drive yourself to the doctor unless that is a last resort.

13. It is estimated that about 47% of cardiac deaths occur before emergency services or transport to a hospital, so don’t hesitate to call. The American Heart Association website, from where much of my information came, has calculators and knowledge tests available. Increase your heart knowledge and check it out at

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; you can learn more about it here. My other Thursday Thirteens are here. This is my 87th one.

*A version of this appeared under my column in The Fincastle Herald, February 25, 2009 edition.


  1. Thanks for those heart facts.

    My father had three valves replaced and the coroner ruled that he died from heart failure, although I think falling down a flight of stairs was more likely the cause.

    I just found out I have high cholesterol, 249, so must become more concerned with my eating habits.

    I've been trying to lose weight with the Wii but since I've been using it have put on 2 pounds. It's fun but not effective for me so I will be going back to my old routine.

    I will stop smoking, I will stop smoking, I will stop smoking!

  2. I had to give up red meat except for 1 time a week for heart health. I guess it's worth it!

  3. Thanks, Anita, for a very informative and enlightening Thursday Thirteen!

  4. I don't think butter is hydrogenated. Margarine is deadly. Olive oil is good.

  5. Thanks for sharing these information! I agree about it being important to take care of your health and educate yourself about nutrition. I'm taking a distance learning program for holistic nutrition and it's amazing the things you learn!

  6. This is a great list and a great tribute to heart month. I am sure we have all been affected by knowing somebody who has succumbed to heart or stroke related illness.

    Very good tips and important points to ponder!

  7. An excellent post as we prepare to exit February -- thanks for visiting my blog earlier!

  8. I lost my grandpa to a heart attack n 1976 and I think of him more, not less, as the years go on. So your #2 really hit very close to home. I'm sure he'd want me to lose weight -- not to make me more attractive to others because my grandpa thought I was beautiful just as I am. But so that I wouldn't meet his painful fate. What a great TT.

  9. Carmen,
    This was a great TT. I quit smoking 13 months ago and gained 30 pounds. My Dr. said I would have to gain 70 pounds to equal the risk my smoking caused.

    I haven't gained any weight in the last 6 months so I have leveled off. I have continued to walk 30 minutes a day but need more if I want to lose. For the first time in my life I am on a diet. It's not near as hard as quitting smoking was so I am grateful for that. I feel better to. Your story about your Grandfather got me because I am 52 and not grandchildren yet. That was my biggest motivation to quit, I want to live long enough to see my grandchildren. At least your Grandfather got to enjoy you for 12 years before he died. I hope I am so fortunate.

    Happy TT!

  10. Great info. We learned the hard way that:
    "11. Other signs are:
    • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
    • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
    • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness", despite repeated trips to the ER and various doctors and surgeons who swore it was muscle spasms or a repetitive motion injury. (2 years and 5 surgeries later) when my husband died at 45 years old. Atherosclerosis- congenital .Your Gramps was too young, and so was my Jerry.

    My TT's (both different) are up at both The Eclectic Witch and Thorne's World

  11. I also lost my grandfather to a heart attack. I was a teenager by then, and he was a bit older than your grandfather. We knew it was a risk because he had diabetes. Still hard to take, though.

  12. Good info.

    I lost my Pop-Pop to a heart attack. He dropped dead playing bingo. I have comfort knowing that he and Nana were doing something they loved. Let's keep lots of love in our hearts.

  13. INTERESTING - hello btw. 87 tt's!

  14. This is a great TT! Very informative.


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