SAN DIEGO, February 4, 2014 — The world was astounded when beloved actor James Gandolfini died of a heart attack last year.
At the age of 51, his life was suddenly cut short as he left behind his wife, his children, and multitudes of grieving fans.
“The idea that a heart attack is ‘natural’ for a man of only 51 is a dangerous fallacy,” says Dr. Neal Barnard, in the Huffington Post. “A heart attack is a disease state caused by specific circumstances, and it needs to — and can — be prevented.”
Gandolfini’s reportedly consistently high fat, high cholesterol, and high sodium diet was a lifestyle choice which caused him to be overweight and even obese.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America for both men and women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that the in the United States there are approximately 715,000 heart attacks each year, resulting in up to 600,000 deaths annually.
Warning signs for the onset of a heart attack vary. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention they include:
-Chest pain or discomfort
-Upper body pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
-Shortness of breath
-Nausea, light-headedness, or cold sweats
Preventing heart disease ideally begins in childhood.
Ways of ensuring heart health include many of the basic and well-known tenets for overall good health:
-Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, and low in fats and sodium
-Not smoking, or choosing to quit (go to CDC’s smoking & tobacco use website)
-Maintain a healthy weight for your body, size, and age
-Limit alcohol consumption
-Keep cholesterol levels at a normal value, with a recommendation level of 200 milligrams or less
-Maintain healthy blood pressure (less than 120 and over 80)
-Exercise at least 2 1/2 hours each week, which may be accomplished several times throughout each day, and suited to your abilities and lifestyle
-It is recommended to seek advice and support from a qualified health care profession to determine what heart healthy choices are right for you.
In an interview conducted by the US News and World Report with Dr. Larry Santora, cardiologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange and medical director for the Dick Butkus Center for Cardiovascular Wellness (named after football great and heart bypass survivor): “Around a quarter of a million people die suddenly of heart attack each year, and about half are under 65. So Gandolfini’s experience isn’t that unusual.”
“Dick Butkus had no risk factors or symptoms. He had this scan done 10 years ago and found out he had two totally blocked arteries,” cites Santora.”
Santora recommends that men over age 35 and women over age 40 who have at least one heart health risk factor have a simple CT scan for the purpose of assessing the level of hardening of the arteries which may be prevalent to determine overall heart health.
Celebrate Heart Month with fun and style by sharing heart healthy dining out with family and friends, and following The American Heart Association’s healthy tips for restaurant dining:
-Avoid cocktails, appetizers, breads and butter
-Ask for creams, sauces, and dressings to be placed on the side
-Ask your server how foods are prepared and what ingredients they contain
-Request healthy substitutions such as salads, sliced tomatoes, or fresh fruit to replace french fries, onion rings and other deep fried temptations
-Order healthy desserts such as fruit, sherbet, sorbet, low-fat cafe latte, and angel food cake
It is entirely possible to enjoy life while also making critical lifestyle changes over time, which can add up to big health dividends, also leading to greater heart health.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is a health care provider of over 30 years. As a featured “Communities” columnist since 2011, LifeCycles with Laurie Edwards-Tate emphasizes healthy aging and maintaining independence, while delighting and informing its readers. Laurie is a recognized expert in home and community-based, long-term care services, and is also an educator.
In addition to writing for “Communities,” Laurie is the President and CEO of her firm, At Your Home Familycare, which serves persons of all ages who are disabled and infirm with a variety of non-medical, in-home care and concierge services.
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