Heart disease remains leading cause of death

October 18, 2018

Working to reduce risk factors in Elkhart County

Cardiovascular disease is responsible for about 1 out of every 3 deaths in the United States, according to the Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2018 At-a-Glance*. Indiana residents have more heart disease than the nation’s average because they have a higher number of the risk factors. 

“About 33 percent of Hoosiers have been diagnosed with hypertension, 40 percent have been diagnosed with high cholesterol and 21 percent are tobacco users,” said Dr. Lydia Mertz, Elkhart County Health Officer. “Almost one-third of all coronary artery disease deaths are due to smoking or second-hand smoke.”

In addition, one-third of all Hoosiers are obese. Over 1 in 10 have diabetes. “More telling is that 27 percent say they have had no physical activity in the last 30 days, and almost 80 percent say they do not eat five daily servings of fruit and vegetables,” said Dr. Mertz. “All of these are risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater likelihood they will develop cardiovascular disease.”

But it’s not hopeless. The most important thing you can do if you smoke is quit. No matter how old you are or how long you’ve been smoking, your health will benefit from quitting. 

“I always tell people you’re going to feel better, you’re going to improve your lung function significantly and you’re going to extend your lifespan,” said Mark Potuck, Goshen Health Tobacco Treatment Specialist. Not smoking is so critical that both Goshen Health and the Elkhart County Health Department offer programs to help people quit and go into the schools and community to discourage people from starting. 

Getting exercise and eating healthy foods are also mission critical for a healthy heart and body. “You don’t have to run a marathon,” said Dr. Mertz. “Start with a walk around the block and work up to a brisk 30 minutes every day.”

What’s the best measure of your efforts? Knowing your numbers – blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and blood sugars. If they’re not in the target ranges, make changes to your lifestyle and talk to your primary care provider.

“We want to raise awareness of heart disease, empower people to live a healthier lifestyle and reduce the number of heart attacks,” said Randy Christophel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Goshen Health. “We committed to this by establishing Goshen Heart & Vascular Center about ten years ago. But we also encourage people to have a primary care provider and to see their provider often enough to monitor their health. Providers can help by tracking numbers, but they also can offer information and support to help people quit smoking, make dietary changes and become more active – all to help make positive changes in a person’s health and quality of life.”

To help educate the community more about heart health, on November 2 and 3, Goshen Health is sponsoring a Mega Heart event that will allow people to tour the inside of a larger-than-life heart, see how heart screenings work and participate in active, hands-on learning.