For American Heart Month, we look at some famous figures who have overcome a heart attack, as well as tips for heart disease prevention.
Heart disease is a preventable and controllable disease, yet it is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to statistics from the American Heart Association. It can cause serious complications such as heart failure, arrhythmias, and heart attack – and worst of all, it does not discriminate. This means that people of different ages, sexes and socio-economic backgrounds are susceptible to the disease.
Many famous celebrities and political figures have suffered from heart-related health issues. Some of them have even used their personal experiences with heart attack as motivation to make drastic lifestyle changes and to create awareness.
Television and radio host Larry King suffered a heart attack in the late 80s, at the age of 53, and admitted that a subsequent bypass surgery served as a wake-up call. Shortly after his experience, the TV veteran established the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, which helps fund heart bypass operations for people who are unable to cover the medical expenses themselves.
Comedian Rosie O’Donnell experienced a minor heart episode last August. When she learned that her coronary artery was 99 percent blocked and that she needed to get a stent put in, O’Donnell decided it was time to start making lifestyle changes, beginning with a healthier diet. She is now also dedicated to helping other women learn about heart attack symptoms and dangers.
Former president Bill Clinton is perhaps one of the most important figures to talk about heart disease and heart attack prevention. Clinton underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 and had two stents placed a few years later. In 2011, he switched to a mostly vegan diet and has been healthy every since. Clinton regularly speaks about his experience keeping his heart disease under control; and he helps raise awareness of cardiovascular health through the Clinton Foundation.
What can I do to prevent a heart attack from occurring?
Heart disease can significantly increase the risk of heart attack, but it can be prevented in many cases by maintaining a healthy weight, following a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise. Below are a few other recommendations suggested by major heart health organizations nationwide:
- Limit alcohol intake. It can increase blood pressure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink a day for women.
- Don’t smoke. It can damage the blood vessels, putting more pressure on the heart to work harder and increasing heart rate and blood pressure along the way.
- Monitor blood pressure and cholesterol. The CDC recommends getting cholesterol levels tested at least once every five years by a physician. Meanwhile, blood pressure can be checked by a doctor, at home, or at a pharmacy.
- Reduce and manage stress. It can raise blood-sugar and blood pressure levels and can potentially lead to a heart attack over time.
In some cases, seemingly-healthy people can suffer heart attack, often due to genetic factors. If you think you are experiencing a heart attack, seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms of heart attack can include pain or discomfort in the chest, jaw, neck, arms, or shoulder; shortness of breath; dizziness or light-headedness; and nausea or indigestion.