Heart disease is the leading cause of
death for both men and women with
700,000 dying from the disease each year in the U.S. and 7 million worldwide.
One American dies every 33 seconds from
cardiovascular disease. Human costs are
compounded by the financial costs of $260
billion, including health care services, medications and lost productivity. Heart attack,
the most visible sign of heart disease,
strikes about 1.1 million people each year.
More than 40 percent of them will die.
Executives are particularly susceptible.
Stress, inactivity, lack of proper nutrition,
avoidance of doctor visits and being “just
too busy” to adopt healthy lifestyles make
heart disease a serious problem among
management and staff.
There is help. Smart Business spoke to
Barry Arbuckle, Ph.D., president and CEO
of MemorialCare Medical Centers, and
past chair of the California Hospital
Association, to learn more about the signs
and symptoms of heart disease and how
hospitals, communities and employers can
collaborate to combat the disease.
Is it primarily a man’s disease?
More women than men die from heart
disease. One in five women have cardiovascular disease, which kills more women
than all forms of cancer, chronic lung disease, pneumonia, diabetes, accidents and
What do MemorialCare physicians say about
heart attack symptoms?
Our cardiovascular specialists say that
many women as well as those with diabetes experience different heart attack
symptoms than men. Symptoms of an
impending heart attack can be so subtle
that women may not suspect they are in
When they actually have a heart attack,
symptoms may include nausea or dizziness; uncomfortable pressure, tightness,
squeezing, fullness or heaviness in the
chest that does not go away in a few minutes; cold sweats or pounding heart; pain
radiating up to the shoulders and neck or
down the arms or back; and/or shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Men, on
the other hand, typically say they feel
crushing chest pain, like an elephant is sitting on their chest.
How preventable is heart disease?
Studies among people with heart disease
have shown that lowering high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure reduces
the risk of dying of heart disease, having a
nonfatal heart attack and needing heart
bypass surgery or angioplasty. Studies
among those without heart disease demonstrate that lowering high blood cholesterol
and high blood pressure can reduce the
risk of developing heart disease.
What are some preventive measures?
Experts emphasize the need to maintain a
healthy weight and eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fat.
Reducing stress, controlling blood pressure
and exercising regularly are important, plus
getting regular checkups and screenings
and following your doctor’s advice.
What can be done to help create a healthy
While it’s not easy committing to a heart-healthy lifestyle, a healthy lifestyle is your
best defense against a number of diseases.
The workplace is a source of many roadblocks to better health. Experts suggest
starting with small steps, like replacing the
cookies and candy snacks with fruits and
vegetables and encouraging staff to take
the stairway instead of the elevator. An
incentive program can reward employees
for losing weight and lowering cholesterol
and blood pressure levels. Lunchtime walking groups and demonstrations of exercises
to do at the desk can also reap benefits.
Engage employees’ entire family in prevention programs to extend healthy habits at
home. And we know that healthier employees are happier and more productive.
Where do we start?
Take steps to create a healthier work
force. Connect with local hospitals, public
health programs, health plans and the
American Heart Association to collaborate
in offering programs, screenings and
lifestyle advice to employees and that
includes management. Post healthy lifestyle reminders throughout the workplace,
and link your Web site and intranet to
health prevention sites.
The MemorialCare Medical Centers’ Web
site (memorialcare.org) has in its Your
Health section health care tools and calculators that help you learn your risk for
a number of diseases and includes a
women’s risk assessment. There are free
health care guides on our Web site for heart
attack symptoms, heart healthy eating and
women’s heart matters. Like many hospitals, MemorialCare Medical Centers offer a
number of health education and prevention programs at your worksite and other
convenient locations as well as comprehensive heart evaluations and executive
physicals at a number of our facilities.
BARRY ARBUCKLE, Ph.D., is president and CEO of MemorialCare Medical Centers (www.memorialcare.org) and past chair of the
California Hospital Association. Reach him at [email protected] or (562) 933-9708. MemorialCare Medical Centers include
Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley,
Anaheim Memorial Medical Center, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach.