February brings awareness of heart disease

And Friday is National Wear Red Day

Nearly 260 men, women and children braved the fog Saturday for the “Listen to Your Heart 5K “Red Tutu” Run/Walk sponsored by the Gainesville Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Participants received #redtuturun T-shirts and red tutus were available for purchase.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 1:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 1:45 p.m.

Not only is Black History Month observed in February, but so is American Heart Month, which is observed to bring awareness to the fact that heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.



* What: Wear Red Day at University of Florida Health and HealthStreet Heart Health Screenings.

* When: Red Day, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m.-noon Friday; screenings, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 21.

* Where: Red Day, UF Health Shands atrium, 1515 SW Archer Road; screenings, Library Partnership, 1130 NE 16th Ave.

* Miscellaneous: Both events will offer free screenings and plenty of information and resources.

* Information: Call 727-563-8107 or email Robin.Weller@heart.org

And Friday is National Wear Red Day in honor of the Go Red for Women observance.

Heart disease does not discriminate — it also is the No. 1 killer of men.

The American Heart Association defines heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, as a heart and blood vessel disease. Although there are numerous causes of heart disease, many are related to atherosclerosis, which is when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries, thereby narrowing the arteries and making it harder for blood to flow. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow and cause a heart attack or stroke.

Melanie Johnson, vice president of development of the North Florida Communities at the American Heart Association in Tallahassee, provided information and numerous facts about heart disease. They are:

Heart disease kills more women than men. In fact, one in three women die each year.

An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease and 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.

Heart disease kills nearly 50,000 African-American women each year and 48.9 percent of African-American women ages 20 and older have heart disease.

Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $108.9 billion each year, including the cost of health care services, medications and lost productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Johnson said it's important to know the risks, learn to recognize symptoms, and learn to prevent heart disease.

"People need to be aware and responsible," Johnson said. "And tell their friends."

The following are uncontrollable risk factors of heart disease:

* Age

* Family history

* Male gender

* Race

* Post-menopausal

The following are risk factors of heart disease that can be controlled:

* Uncontrolled high blood pressure

* Uncontrolled diabetes

* High "bad" (LDL) and low "good" (HDL) cholesterol

* Smoking

* Obesity

* Physical inactivity

* High C-reactive protein

* Uncontrolled stress and anger

The common symptoms of heart disease include the following:

* Chest discomfort, such as uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain

* Discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach

* Fainting

* Fatigue

* Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort

* Light-headedness

* Sweating

* Nausea

Johnson said lowering blood pressure and cholesterol numbers will reduce the risk of dying of heart disease. She offered "Life's Simple 7" for cardiovascular health. They are:

* Stop smoking

* Maintain a healthy weight

* Engage in regular physical activity

* Eat a healthy diet

* Manage blood pressure

* Take charge of cholesterol

* Keep blood sugar, or glucose, at healthy levels

To learn your risk for heart disease, Johnson recommends taking the "My Life Check" assessment, a tool based on the latest cardiovascular science and interpreted by the American Heart Association. It is available at http://mylifecheck.heart.org/.

Children and heart disease

Heart disease that only affects children and adolescents can include kawasaki disease, a rare illness that involves inflammation of the blood vessels that can lead to heart damage, and rheumatic heart disease, a condition where the heart muscle and heart valves are damaged due to rheumatic fever, which is caused by bacteria. Some children are born with congenital heart disease, which is an abnormality of the heart or blood vessel.

Twelve-year-old Daniel Tressler III was diagnosed with kawasaki disease at 2 years of age. And although he does not remember, his parents, Kim and Daniel Tressler II, remember all too well.

The Tresslers, who are residents of Oviedo, were in Gainesville on Saturday so Daniel, an avid runner, could participate in the "Listen to Your Heart 5K "Red Tutu" Run/Walk sponsored by the Gainesville Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Daniel likes participating in American Heart Association events.

This year, Daniel placed fourth out of about 260 runners. Last year, he was the overall winner.

In the U.S., kawasaki disease occurs in 19 out of every 100,000 children. The cause is unknown, but if the symptoms are recognized early, children can fully recover within a few days.

The disease is characterized by high fever, along with a rash, swollen hands and feet, bloodshot eyes, swollen lymph nodes, a strawberry appearance on the tongue, and an acute inflammation of the blood vessels, especially the coronary arteries.

Daniel Tressler II said his son is fortunate to have been treated early. He said Daniel went through 11 blood transfusions overnight, without complications. "His pediatrician caught it early, or he could have had heart damage," said Tressler.

"It was very scary," Kim Tressler said. "He is very fortunate. Some kids are not so lucky."

Daniel said he doesn't remember having kawasaki. "It was too long ago," Daniel said. "I've been doing track and field since I was 4. Running is my thing."

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