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Front Page » April 9, 2009 » Senior Focus » Looking toward a healthy summer
Published 2,082 days ago

Looking toward a healthy summer


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By C.J. MCMANUS
Sun Advocate community editor

As Carbon County's active seniors gear up for another active summer local district health department officials including Georgina Nowak and Jessie Huff would like to raise awareness about the early warning signs and fastest treatments for two of the nation's biggest killers, stroke and heart disease.

According to information recommended by the department at www.hearthighway.org, a stroke is often referred to as a "brain attack," cutting off blood and oxygen to the brain cells that control everything we do, from speaking, to walking, to breathing.

Most strokes occur when arteries are blocked by blood clots or by the build-up of plaque and other fatty deposits.

"Some strokes are caused when weak spots on the blood vessel wall break and rupture arteries. Brain tissue needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to function correctly. When the tissue is cut off from oxygen during a stroke, the tissue begins to die," states the site. "Every year stroke strikes approximately 750,000 Americans, killing 160,000 and forever changing the live of many who survive."

While those statistics seem staggering, according to the health department site, the good news is that many strokes can be prevented.

"If you have a stroke, new treatments may help stop brain damage and disability, if administered within three hours of the first sign of a stroke," explains the webpage. "Once you recognize the signs, you should call 911 immediately."

Types of stroke include:

•Hemorrhagic stroke is the most serious. This type occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. Hemorrhage can occur in several ways. One common way is the weak spot in an artery wall that stretches or balloons out under pressure and eventually ruptures. It can also occur when the arterial wall breaks open, due to plaque or fatty deposit build up.

•Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked, suddenly decreasing or stopping blood flow and causing brain damage. Blood clots are the most common cause of an ischemic stroke. This type of stroke accounts for 80 percent of all attacks.

•Transient ischemic attack, also known as a "mini stroke," occurs when the blood flow to part of the brain is cut off for a short period of time, usually less than 15 minutes. A TIA is as warning sign and should be treated seriously. Of the approximately 50,000 Americans that have a TIA each year, about one-third will have a stroke in the near future.

"So, if you experience the symptoms of a stroke for only a short period of time, then the symptoms go away, you may be having mini-strokes. Although a TIA may not leave noticeable damage, it is important to talk to your doctor immediately," warned the site.

Common signs of a stroke include:

•Sudden numbness of weakness of the face, arm, or leg - especially on one side of the body.

•Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

•Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or coordination.

•Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

•Sudden confusion or trouble speaking.

"Learning and knowing what to do when these symptoms occur could save your life or the life of a loved one," concludes the stroke portion of the information.

Heart disease, a much more broad term, encompasses many different problems affecting the heart. It can affect the coronary arteries, heart valves and heart muscle and can also affect the heart's rate and rhythm. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans.

The different types of disease include:

•Coronary artery disease, which occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed.

•Angina which is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart does not get enough blood.

•Heart attack. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Do not wait too long to find out what is happening, warns the site.

If chest discomfort, discomfort in other areas of the body, shortness of breath, cold sweats, feeling nauseated or lightheaded persists it is best to seek medical treatment.

•Heart valve disease, which can affect the proper movement of blood from one chamber of the heart to the next by damaging the flaps that separate them. This damage can be caused by infections, rheumatic fever or changes in valve structure as a person gets older.

The list goes on and on and can be examined more closely by visiting the heart highway. However what is most important is that all senior citizens take the best measures possible to fight both diseases.

According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, "For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity aerobic activity."

While seniors should be mindful of high impact aerobic strain, they are encouraged by the site along with other adults to stay busy as physical activity can:

•Reduce risk of developing heart disease.

•Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight that reduces the risk for diabetes, strokes and other chronic diseases.

•Improved emotional well- being.

•Prevent or manage osteoporosis and some types of arthritis.

For a full list of advantages and diet tips please visit the site.

All information for this article was taken from www.hearthighway.org per the recommendation of officials at the Southeastern Utah District Health Department.

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