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Editorial: You only get one heart. Love it!

This news story was published on February 23, 2019.
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By: Karen Crimmings, RN, CIC

Many of us bulldoze through life thinking our bodies are invincible. We tell ourselves things like “that will never happen to me” and “well, I don’t eat that all the time”. But, have we stopped to think about how we REALLY treat our bodies?

Stop and think about the past week. How many times did you go out to eat? How many times did you eat heavily processed foods? Did you exercise at all? How was your stress level? Did you have a cigarette or vape? If you treated your body well, kudos to you! If not, don’t feel bad. There is always time to make different choices in your health habits.

February is Heart Health month. Exercise, good nutrition, and quitting tobacco and nicotine are all great ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. Here’s a kick start to thinking about those things!

With over 2/3 of our population currently obese or overweight, exercise and good nutrition seem to have taken a backseat in many of our lives. Today, one in three adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. Our lifestyle and the foods we eat can have a significant impact on our health. Visiting with a dietitian or nutritionist is helpful in figuring out what your diet struggles are and how you can combat them.

While weight loss is primarily a result of improved nutrition habits, exercise and fitness programming can and should play a part in your quest to live healthier. Regular physical activity is the perfect medicine for preventing and managing many chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, etc.). While most people think of exercise in terms of cardio/aerobic workouts, simply going for a walk provides numerous health benefits.

Another heart health risk, which is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease and death in the United States, is tobacco and nicotine use. Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke.1 One of the BIGGEST and BEST changes you can make for your health and the health of those around you, is to quit smoking or vaping. The positive health effects of quitting smoking begin 20 minutes after your last cigarette.

Sometimes, no matter what our health habits are, we can still suffer from cardiovascular disease. Heart attack and stroke can happen at any age, and while we hope our healthy behaviors will aid in lowering our risk, we are still faced with an emergency situation. It may not be ourselves, but a loved one, so it’s very important to know what do when someone is suffering a heart attack or stroke.

First, what is a heart attack? A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. It’s very important should you feel any of the symptoms listed below, that you seek medical attention immediately. Time is precious in these situations.2

The most common symptoms of a heart attack are:
Chest Pain or uncomfortable squeezing, pressure, or fullness in the center of your chest.
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms.
Shortness of breath (with or without chest pain).
Pain or discomfort in the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Breaking out in a cold sweat.

Second, what is a stroke? A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients.

The most common symptoms of a stroke are:
Trouble with speaking and understanding.
Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg.
Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes.
Trouble with walking.

If you think someone is having a heart attack or stroke, it is very important to get medical attention immediately. Every second counts during these life threatening events.

So with all of this great heart health information, I hope you all are empowered to make a change in your health affecting behaviors. Give your heart the best possible chance it can have to living a long healthy life! I’m sure the rest of your body will appreciate it as well!

For more information on nutrition or fitness coaching or programming, contact the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health at 641-421-9300 or visit


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2018 Jan 30].
What is a Heart Attack? (2007). American Heart Association Website. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from
Stroke (2018). May Clinic Website. Retrieved February 20, 2019, from

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