Up in Smoke
Spoiler Alert! Don’t worry; it’s not about Star Wars™ so you’re probably safe to continue reading… Terrific heart health news from the CDC finds ‘Real Progress’ as percentage of U.S. smokers plummet. Federal health officials have now reported the number of smokers has decreased by nearly 20 percent in the past 10 years and dropped a full percentage point in the last year alone.
Since smoking makes an appearance on every list of risk factors for heart attack and heart disease, this decline is excellent news for the heart health of our nation. For those who need a gentle and perhaps not so subtle reminder, here’s why smoking makes the naughty list…
“Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases risk. Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance and increases the tendency for blood to clot.”
Last year, smoking rates hit a 50-year low! The CDC cannot pinpoint precisely what had led to the staggering decline but the result is irrefutable. Some of the factors helping the fight against tobacco are:
• Federal tax hikes
• Anti-smoking campaigns over the past 20 years
• Better insurance coverage for those wanting to kick the habit (One troubling finding: adults who are uninsured or on Medicaid smoke at rates more than double those for adults with private health insurance or Medicare.)
• Tougher laws making it harder to smoke in a growing number of places
Whatever the reason, these statistics prove that millions of Americans are quitting everyday and you can too. Make 2016 the year that you make this life changing decision for you and your family!
Heart to Heart
• Each year, more women than men die of cardiovascular disease.
• Six times as many women die from heart disease as from breast cancer— about 500,000 each year.
• An estimated 8 million American women suffer from heart disease.
• One out of every four women will die of heart disease.
• Women have more heart attacks than men that go unrecognized.
• Cardiovascular disease, which also includes heart failure, hypertension, and stroke, is more prevalent in women.
None of the above statistics are “new” and should not be alarming. Yet, when we see them bulleted out like that, we are still shocked. Diagnosing and treating women who might slip through the gap or slide under the radar screen has been the focus of top Heart Health Clinics over the past decade. Discovering where education and research is needed and gaps in knowledge exist remains top priority.
While heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women, there is still an inequity of research done for men’s heart disease in comparison to their female counterparts.
“The sex gap in cardiovascular disease hit its peak in 1999 and is finally getting some attention,” said Jennifer Tremmel, MD from Stanford's Women's Heart Health Clinic, who is conducting an AHA-funded study on sex differences in cardiovascular disease.
“The growth in women’s heart centers is targeting this apparent inequity of care,” said Sharonne Hayes, MD, director of the Women’s Heart Clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and a member of the advisory board of WomenHeart: the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.
“There are still marked disparities in care,” Hayes said. “Women are less likely to be prescribed medication or be as intensely treated as men. Women also don’t feel like they are being listened to when they discuss their symptoms with their doctors. Nobody ever sat down and adequately addressed their concerns.”
Heart disease in women is consistently misdiagnosed and undertreated, and more women than men have died of cardiovascular disease every year since 1984. Symptoms don’t necessarily present the same way with women in the way as they do men.
Preventative measures can be taken to reduce your risk and change the course of your future heart health. Diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle are also the easiest first steps to take toward disease prevention. If heart disease is in your family history or you have concerns due to lifestyle risks or other health issues, contact your doctor.
As we have seen, and will hopefully continue to see with smoking, ‘Real Progress’ can be made when education, research is combined with a determination to change. You cannot kick the habit of heart disease but you can try to manage the risks within your control to be part of your own wellness plan!