‘Heart disease takes the lives of far too many people’

Many Youngstown State University students have experienced the pain of a parent or grandparent with a heart disease, including junior Sarah Gordon.

“He’s never had any health problems his entire life. That’s why it was such a shock,” Gordon said of her grandfather’s heart failure.

Heart disease results from the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which narrows the vessels and hinders blood flow. This may lead to a heart attack or stroke. 

Plaque buildup is one of the main causes of heart disease — but there are others, including heart failure, irregular heartbeat and heart valve problems.

Gordon’s grandfather has plaque buildup that ultimately stopped his heart. It has become difficult for him to live his life like he used to because of medication and a pacemaker. 

According to the American Heart Association, someone in the U.S. suffers a heart attack every 34 seconds. 

“With more than 2 million heart attacks and strokes a year, and 800,000 deaths, just about all of us have been touched by someone who has had heart disease, heart attack or a stroke,” U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. 

In 1963, Congress designated February as American Heart Month to stress healthy living and caution Americans about the risks of cardiovascular diseases.

YSU has been working to warn students of the risks of heart disease as well.

Judy Pavalko from YSU’s Student Health Services said the Student Health Clinic has pamphlets on blood pressure and healthy hearts. The clinic also has physicians that students can talk to for more information. 

Heart disease varies by race, but age is the most common factor. 

Researchers at the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, located in Chicago, found that those who reach the age of 50 and are healthy, active individuals will have less than a 2 percent chance of heart disease. 

According to U.S. News Health, dietary changes can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

Along with improving nutrition, exercise also lowers the chances of having heart disease. If a person is overweight, the heart must work harder.

Exercise will help a person lose weight, but it will also give the heart the exercise that it needs to stay healthy. 

Smoking and drinking are two leading factors of heart failure and stroke. By limiting or completely cutting out these two things, the risk decreases dramatically.

It is important to visit the doctor regularly to keep track of health issues and prescribed medications. 

Most YSU students, though, visit the doctor for other reasons.

“I don’t really talk about heart disease with my doctor,” Gordon said. “It was a scary time, and it’s strange because it didn’t happen to [my grandfather] because of bad eating or not exercising.” 

Subsequently, Gordon said she’s striving “to be more conscious health-wise.” 

“I go to exercise classes and try and eat right,” she said.