Fifteen years ago, my father died from heart disease at the age of 65. We were aware that he suffered from high blood pressure, and his doctor prescribed medication and counseled him on improving his diet and starting an exercise regimen. Like most people faced with this diagnosis, he tried his best to change his lifestyle.
One night after dinner, he felt some mild pressure in his chest. Thinking it was just indigestion, he didn’t tell anyone. Two hours later, my step-mother was calling 911 after he fell to the floor. He had suffered a massive heart attack. My father gained consciousness for a brief period, had a stent inserted within 24 hours, but died three days later.
In memory of my dad, I signed on as a CDPHP® team captain for the Capital Region Heart Walk, which will take place at the Empire State Plaza on Saturday, June 13. The American Heart Association (AHA) in Albany hopes to raise $750,000 from this year’s walk, which for the first time combines the former Saratoga Heart Walk with the Albany walk, making for an even bigger and better event.
The goal for the overall CDPHP Heart Walk team is $15,000. For every dollar we raise, 75 cents stays in the Capital Region for research, treatment, and support for individuals and families affected by heart disease and stroke. Currently, the AHA is funding $2.1 million in research in the Capital Region. Albany Medical Center, the University at Albany, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have received grants in recent years.
Although we’ve come a long way with treatment and prevention, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in this country, and each year more than 3 million Americans have heart attacks, according to AHA data. Every day, people experience symptoms and mistake them for indigestion, the flu, fatigue, or other less severe conditions. Providing education on cardiovascular disease and heart attack symptoms is part of the AHA mission.
Recognizing a Heart Attack
When a person has a heart attack, there’s a limited amount of time before significant and long-lasting damage occurs to the heart muscle. If a large area of the heart is injured during the heart attack, full recovery becomes much more difficult. The best time to treat a heart attack is within one hour of the onset of the first symptoms.
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or it goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. This may occur with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
I often wonder if my father would be alive today if he had recognized that the pain he was feeling was a symptom of an impending heart attack. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing a heart attack, don’t worry about whether you are overreacting. Call 911 immediately. Minutes matter!
Talk to a Health Coach
CDPHP members who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or another chronic condition can get the support and guidance they need through our Health Coach ConnectionSM program. Call 1-800-365-4180 to speak privately and confidentially with a specially trained health professional, such as a nurse or dietitian, anytime, 24/7.
Stay Active and Involved
The Capital Region hosts several walks, runs, and biking events throughout the spring and summer. By participating, you’ll help a worthy cause while improving your fitness.