Heart Disease Still Leading Cause of Death; Latest CDC Obesity Study Shows Slight Improvement in NY

August 20, 2012
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, and stroke is the No. 4 cause of death and a leading cause of disability. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease–also called cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease–is a simple term used to describe several problems related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow and creating a risk for heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for both. Obesity can trigger high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as heart disease.

The Centers for Disease Control recently published adult obesity rates in the United States. A dozen states had a rate above 30 percent. The percentage of New Yorkers considered obese was 24.5%. This is slightly lower than it was five years ago, but still well above the goal New York outlined for 2013 of 15%. Health professionals are concerned about this trend for the health of our country. Further, according to the American Heart Association, the estimated annual cost of obesity-related diseases is $147 billion a year, which accounts for nearly 17% of medical spending in the United States, according to recent research.

No matter what your age, everyone can benefit from a healthy diet and adequate physical activity. For one thing, many don't realize how much sugar and salt the average adult is supposed to consume versus how much is actually consumed. The American Heart Association recommends for women no more than about six teaspoons of sugar. For men, it's about nine teaspoons. To give you an idea, one 12-ounce soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar; so it's a good idea to limit sugared beverages.

As far as sodium, note food labels. About 98 percent of Americans eat more than twice as much sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet, consuming an average 3,436 milligrams daily. If we cut the average daily sodium intake by more than half — to less than 1,500 milligrams per day, as the American Heart Association recommends — high blood pressure would decrease nearly 26 percent and more than $26 billion in healthcare costs would be saved over just a year. Canned soups and prepared meals tend to be high in sodium. Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as well.

Diet alone will not help heart health. The American Heart Association recommends slowly working up to at least 2˝ hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (like brisk walking) every week, or an hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging or running), or a combination of both every week. Additionally, on two or more days a week, you need muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

For help, talk to your doctor about a diet and exercise plan that's right for you. You also may contact the New York State Department of Health's Obesity Prevention Program at 518-408-5142. There are several local resources as well. The Onondaga County Health Department can be reached at 315-435-3280. Oswego County Health Department can be reached at 315-349-3547. Several articles about any of the topics mentioned above also can be found at the American Heart Association Website or the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov.

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