Take it to heart

One American dies every 33 seconds from cardiovascular disease. The human costs are compounded by financial costs of $260 billion annually, including health care services, medications and lost productivity. Heart attack, the most common sign of heart disease, strikes 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.

Smart Business talked to Diana Hendel, Pharm.D., the chief executive officer of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, to learn more.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Physicians at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute report that for women, symptoms can be so subtle they may not suspect they’re in trouble. These may include nausea or dizziness; uncomfortable pressure or 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; difficulty breathing and/or shortness of breath. On the other hand, men say they feel crushing chest pain, like an elephant sitting on their chest.

Are many women affected?

More women than men die from heart disease. One in five women have cardiovascular disease, killing more women than all forms of cancer, chronic lung disease, pneumonia, diabetes, accidents and AIDS combined.

How preventable is heart disease?

Studies show that lowering cholesterol and treating high blood pressure reduces the risk of dying of heart disease, having a non-fatal heart attack and needing heart bypass surgery or angioplasty. Preventive measures include maintaining a healthy weight and eating foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fats. Reducing stress, controlling blood pressure and exercising regularly are important, as well as getting regular checkups and screenings and following a doctor’s advice.