Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Arkansas
JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) – Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Arkansas, but like many of the state’s major health problems, many cases are preventable.
Dr. Barry Tedder is a cardiologist at St. Bernards Medical Center who works with patients on the prevention and intervention of various forms of heart disease.
“Heart disease manifests itself in different things, if you say heart disease, but coronary artery disease or coronary artery disease is the development of blockage or atherosclerosis in the arteries, either in the heart, in the legs, in the brain , anywhere,” Tedder said. .
In 2020, Arkansas was ranked fourth in the nation for most heart disease deaths. Tedder said heart disease can affect anyone at any age.
“You think of heart attacks in your 60s and 60s, but nowadays we see them in your 30s, 40s, 50s. So we really have to start in our late 20s, early 30s with a cardiovascular disease prevention plan,” Tedder said. “It’s very important to see your doctor and have them assess your risk for cardiovascular disease. You know, we really should be talking about a long-term risk like a over 30 years instead of just five to 10. We should assess ourselves as patients or individuals to determine the 30-year risk or the long-term risk of having a heart attack.
Todd Pettit knows firsthand how heart disease can impact a person’s life. He suffered a severe heart attack when he was in his early thirties.
“I was actually at home, alone, reading a book,” Pettit said. “I had all the classic symptoms of a heart attack: chest pain, shoulder pain, neck pain. And it came all of a sudden.”
Tedder is the cardiologist who treated Pettit in the emergency room when he had his heart attack 25 years ago.
“He had taken me to the catheterization lab and I think I had three stays and something else, angioplasty maybe as well,” Pettit said. “And the first time I really knew anything, I remember a lot, I woke up in intensive care at St. Bernards.”
“We recognized at that time that he had what is called familial hyperlipidemia, a very common hereditary problem,” Tedder said.
Tedder said not all heart attacks are due to genetics like Pettit’s.
In fact, most cases of heart disease can be prevented.
“80% of chronic disease, which is what we primarily treat, is predicted or thought to be lifestyle-related and could be changed,” Tedder said.
According to the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, Arkansas has the fifth highest rate of risk factors in the nation, and risk factors can vary widely.
“Most of the cardiovascular diseases we see are linked to diabetes, prediabetes or obesity. Obesity is terrible in our community and across the country, and it contributes to the pre-diabetes/diabetes aspect that really leads to most or a lot of heart disease,” Tedder said.
There are things people can do at home to help prevent or reduce the risk of heart disease.
“Being healthy, active, walking, exercising and eating your vegetables like your mom told you. And by eating less processed foods and sugary foods, there’s a much better chance that you won’t end up in the ER with a heart attack over time,” Tedder said.
However, he understands the challenge of finding healthier options for people in rural communities.
“Sometimes we’re in a food desert where you just don’t have access to quality food at an affordable price,” Tedder said. “It’s a difficult problem that needs to be solved and teach people how to prepare food because people grow up not knowing how to prepare food very easily.”
Another struggle is choosing healthier foods when they are available.
“Sometimes I have years or months where I struggle with the diet and exercise program,” Pettit said. “And staying where I need to be and knowing that I need to be, but it’s something I feel I need to do and it’s something I need to accomplish for myself and my family.”
Tedder points out that while a healthy lifestyle helps in prevention, there is no cure for heart disease.
“You have to recognize that just because you’re doing a stint or bypassing a patient doesn’t mean it doesn’t cure heart disease. It begins to develop in our late teens when we start developing minor plaques in the arteries, and over time,” Tedder said. “So it’s a slow, progressive disease.”
That’s why taking care of yourself and getting regular tests are key to reducing your risk of heart disease.
“It can touch anyone’s life. Of all ages, from the youngest to the oldest. And that’s something that we all need to pay attention to and go get tested and pay attention to pain and pay attention to what your body is telling you,” Pettit said. “It’s a simple, simple check, a blood test. And if you have any complications with this blood test, your doctor will know where to send you and how to deal with it.
You can find tips for reducing the risk of heart disease here.
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