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.
What expertise is available locally?
The MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center is one of California’s most successful and innovative heart centers for the diagnosis, treatment and the rehabilitation of heart disease. Patients are treated in catheterization labs and operating rooms designed specifically for cardiovascular surgery. We perform the most robotic surgeries using the da Vinci surgical system among all West Coast institutions, and our Emergency Chest Pain Center in the Emergency Department ranks among the top 3 percent nationally for heart attack survival.
What about heart disease and children?
With one in three 6- to 17-year-olds in California classified as overweight, the number of kids with risk factors for heart disease high body-mass index, glucose intolerance, elevated blood pressure and high cholesterol translates into a higher risk of chronic disease as an adult. The MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute partners with the Pediatric Cardiac Center at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach to provide total prenatal, infant, pediatric and young adult care for patients with congenital or acquired heart disease or who have a family history of heart problems.
What can be done to help create a healthy workplace?
Research shows that a healthy lifestyle is your best defense against a number of diseases. The workplace is a source of many roadblocks to better health. Start with small changes, like replacing 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 reap benefits. Engage your employees’ entire family in prevention programs to extend healthy habits at home. Healthier employees are typically happier and more productive.
Where do we start?
Take steps to create a healthy work force by connecting with local hospitals, physicians and the American Heart Association to develop collaborative programs, screenings and lifestyle advice for employees and that includes management. Post healthy lifestyle reminders throughout the workplace, and link your intranet and Web site to health prevention sites.
MemorialCare’s site (memorialcare.org) has health tools and calculators in the ‘Your Health’ section that help you evaluate your risk for a number of diseases and includes a womven’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. Our MemorialCare Health System facilities can offer health education and prevention programs at your worksite or at other convenient locations as well as comprehensive heart evaluations and executive physicals.
Diana Hendel, Pharm.D., is chief executive officer of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach. The not-for-profit MemorialCare Health System also includes Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. For additional information on excellence in health care, please visit memorialcare.org.