Niagara Gazette

February 10, 2013

GUEST VIEW: Get heart healthy In February

By Benjamin Rueda
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women today. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 600,000 people die of heart disease annually and nearly 1 million Americans suffer a heart attack. Not only is heart disease one of our country’s leading health issues, Niagara County has the highest incidences of heart disease in New York State.

As part of Heart Month this February, learn the warning signs of a heart attack and take an active role in getting heart healthy.

Some heart attacks may be sudden and intense, but most heart attacks start slowly, with chest pain or discomfort. People tend to wait when they think they may be having a heart attack and that’s a mistake. The average patient arrives in the emergency department more than two hours after the onset of symptoms. However, the sooner a heart attack is treated, the less damage there is to the heart and the better the outcome for the patient.

While the most common symptom is chest pain, other warning signs of heart attacks can include upper body pain or discomfort in arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach; shortness of breath; nausea; lightheadedness; or cold sweats.

If you or a loved one begin to experience any of these symptoms, don’t wait — immediately call 9-1-1 so an ambulance can be sent for you. Emergency medical services staff can begin treatment once they arrive, which can be up to an hour sooner than it someone is driven to the hospital by car. In addition emergency personnel are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Remember – minutes matter when it comes to heart attacks, so even if you’re not 100 percent sure, call 9-1-1.

Before a heart attack may strike, talk with your doctor about the major risk factors and how you can take action NOW to become more heart healthy. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or are a smoker. Other conditions that can put you at a higher risk for heart disease include diabetes, obesity, poor diet, and lack of physical activity.

Niagara County’s leading provider of cardio-pulmonary care services, The Cardiac Center at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital consists of a team of six cardiologists and 43-member staff each with a commitment to treating cardiac patients with the highest level of care. Mount St. Mary’s is also designed by the Society of Chest Pain Centers as an Accredited Chest Pain Center, the first and only Niagara County hospital with this medically important designation. Educational programs related to heart disease and nutrition services are offered year around at the hospital. For a complete listing of programs scheduled throughout Heart Month in February, please visit

Make 2013 the year you start eating healthier, engaging in more physical activity, or quit smoking. Your heart with thank you!

Benjamin Rueda, MD, is head of cardiology at Mount St. Mary's Hospital.