By the Old Sarge
I lost a friend a couple of summers ago.
Joe was a fit middle-aged man and an avid golfer. He died as he was finishing a solo practice round on a local course.
A group playing behind Joe found his body on the tee box of the final hole. The cause of death was a massive heart attack. The word around the clubhouse was that Joe died with a smile on his face because he was doing something that he loved.
I don’t know about that because I wasn’t there. I do know that his wife wasn’t smiling at his funeral.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and it’s responsible for 1 in 4 of all deaths. Joe was one of the 2,200 people who die every day from a heart attack or stroke.
Doctors offer the following early signs of heart disease that demand immediate action.
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
February is American Heart Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following tips for heart health:
- See your doctor. Schedule regular check-ups even if you don’t think you are sick.
- Add exercise to your daily routine. Begin by walking 15 minutes, three times each week. By mid-month, increase to 30 minutes, three times each week.
- Eat healthy. Cook heart-healthy meals at home at least three times each week.
- Quit smoking. This can cut your risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Take your medication. Talk to your doctor if you have trouble taking your medicines on time or if you’re having side effects.
I didn’t know Joe well enough to know if he had experienced early warning signs of a heart attack, or even if he followed the CDC’s health advice. I do know that it’s never too late to make small changes that can improve your heart health. American Heart Month is a good time to start.