Monday, February 27th, 2017

Heart disease bad locally

Mercer among worst counties in the state for cardiac deaths

By Sydney Albert
CELINA - Only about 13.8 percent of respondents to the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment listed cardiovascular disease as an important health problem facing the county, but according to the CDC, Mercer County has one of the worst rates of heart disease-related deaths in Ohio.
Carrie Hornbeck Fox, M.P.H., an epidemiologist investigator with the Bureau of Health Promotion at the Ohio Department of Health, said for adults 35 years old and over, Mercer County had an age-adjusted heart disease death rate of 470.8 per 100,000 people. The county has the ninth highest age-adjusted death rate in Ohio for that particular age group, she said, with 141 heart disease-related deaths reported in 2015.
Public information officer for the ODH Cassie Balasubramanian said it's important to look at age-adjusted rates when comparing counties because every county has a different makeup in terms of age groups.
"Some counties have an older population, which usually have higher death rates from certain diseases, and some have younger populations. When we age-adjust, we account for those variations so that we're comparing apples to apples, so to speak," she said.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American men and women according to the Center for Disease Control, which estimates that 1 in every 4 deaths is due to heart disease.
February is American Heart Month, and not just because of Valentine's Day - it's a month to raise awareness and promote living styles that can help prevent heart disease and its complications. Nancy Mescher, Mercer Health cardiopulmonary services director, says it's important to prevent heart disease before it becomes a problem.
"There's certainly a genetic component that people don't have much control over, but things like a healthy diet, exercise, getting enough sleep and reducing stress all play a role," she said.
People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or who smoke regularly are at high risk for heart disease, and a data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics says about half of Americans have at least one of those three risk factors. Some medical conditions such as diabetes or lifestyle choices such as excessive alcohol consumption can put people at higher risk as well, the brief said.
Mercer County health commissioner Amy Poor told the newspaper that contributing factors to the county's high rate of heart disease are excessive alcohol use on top of diabetes, obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity.
Some of the easier ways to promote good heart health is to be more active and to cut the amount of sodium in your diet, Mescher said. In addition, Mercer Health offers different ways to test and monitor your heart if you have concerns.
"We do a multiple diagnostic test that looks for the rhythm of your heart, and that's what your EKG is," Mescher explained. "A Holter monitor is a continuous reading of your heart rate for 24 to 48 hours."
Mercer Health also offers echocardiograms, which enable cardiologists to examine the valves and muscle movement of a patient's heart; event monitoring, which is similar to Holter monitoring but over a longer period of 30 days; and stress testing, where patients exercise on a treadmill and their blood pressure, heart rate and more are monitored.
The CDC reports that major warning signs and symptoms of heart attacks include chest pain or discomfort; upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach; shortness of breath; nausea; lightheadedness or cold sweats. Anyone with these symptoms is urged to call 9-1-1 immediately.
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