When people think of illnesses, diseases such as cancer, diabetes and pneumonia may be among the first few that flash through their minds.
While these rank in the top ten list of killers in the United States, according the American Cancer Society, heart disease is at the top of the list.
It is the number one killer of American men and women. Friday is national Heart Disease Awareness Day. While Western does not have a formal activity planned for the day, people around the nation will be wearing red to raise awareness for the disease.
“It is generally considered an elder person’s disease, but it can affect people of all ages,” said Patricia Blewett, a physician for Student Health Services. “For college-age patients, the main idea is prevention.”
Heart disease comes in many forms, including coronary artery disease (heart attack), heart valve disease, heart failure and several others. According to WebMD, heart disease involves any condition that inhibits the heart from pumping blood throughout the body. Some are born with a form of heart disease, such as heart valve disease, in which a person has abnormalities in his or her valves.
Coronary artery disease is caused by a build up of plaque in the arteries. When a person’s artery is completely clogged, a heart attack can occur.
“I should be more worried about it, and I should be eating better now,” said Betsy Sheppard, a graduate student from Bowling Green. “I am walking more lately.”
Those at risk include men and those with a family history of heart disease.
“My dad’s had heart problems, so it’s something I worry about,” Franklin sophomore Jennie Smith said.
African-Americans, Hispanics, smokers and people who are obese are also at high risks. African-American women are more likely than Caucasian women to get the disease and are twice as likely to die from it, according to the Web site.
Among college age students, illegal drug use is also a major cause of heart disease.
Blewett said cocaine use can prompt heart attacks. About one-fourth of heart attacks in adults under 45 are linked to regular cocaine use, WebMD said.
Blewett said treatment options range from blood pressure, diabetic and cholesterol medications, to costly an risky surgeries.
Bypass surgery involves taking an artery from the leg and using it to create a new path for the blood to get to the heart, Blewett said.
Angioplasty involves placing an object in the artery that “balloons up,” expanding the artery.
Americans’ high risk makes it important to keep up with cholesterol, blood pressure and other health factors to avoid heart disease.
“The treatment of heart disease is more expensive than the prevention,” Blewett said.
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