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Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Atlantic County Residents at Risk for Heart Disease

In February, we focus on friendship and love. But there is another matter of the heart that Atlantic County residents need to consider – heart disease.

This February, the Atlantic County Division of Public Health is observing American Heart Month by reminding residents about the dangers of heart disease and suggesting strategies for improving cardiovascular health.

A recent study conducted by the Partnership for a Healthy Community reveals that Atlantic County lags behind the rest of the nation in many of the key risk factors for heart disease. Over 35 percent of participating county residents say they have high blood pressure compared to the national figure of 25 percent. In addition, Atlantic County survey participants were twice as likely to have high cholesterol as residents elsewhere in the nation.

The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, killing 945,000 Americans each year. But the good news is that there are many things you can do to improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

"Simple lifestyle changes - like eating right, not smoking and exercising daily - can help combat the dangers of heart disease," explains Atlantic County Health Officer Tracye McArdle. "It's also essential that everyone be screened for risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol." Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity.

Certain populations are especially vulnerable to heart disease, including women and African Americans. According to the AHA, heart disease affects more women than men and kills over half a million American women each year. The AHA also points out that the prevalence of high blood pressure among African Americans is among the highest in the world.

Heart disease is not a new problem in America – it has been the leading cause of death nearly every year in the past century. However, modern screening techniques and greater public awareness can help reduce risk factors and prevent the development of heart disease.

For more information about American Heart Month, visit the American Heart Association Web site at www.americanheart.org, the Atlantic County Division of Public Health Web site at www.aclink.org/publichealth or call 609-645-5933.

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