(WYTV) – Traditionally known as the month for lovers and all things heart related, February also reminds us to take care of our hearts. This week, 33 WYTV is teaming up with the American Heart Association (AHA) to bring you “Stories of the Heart.” Together, we’re working to change the conversation.
“That’s the most important point, that this is the number one killer of Americans today,” said Dr. Brandon Mikolich, an interventional cardiologist at Sharon Regional Medical Center.
“The big thing with heart disease is it’s 80% preventable, so a lot of the choices that we’re making every single day are stuff that affect our daily lives and our heart health moving forward,” said Tracy Behnke, executive director of AHA’s Tri-County branch.
February marks the 56th annual American Heart Month, a time when the nation turns its attention to keeping families and communities free from heart disease.
“You know, with heart disease and stroke, they don’t discriminate on age, gender, race, anything of that nature. So it’s really important for us to talk about it and bring light to a lot of things that we all know that we should be doing but we may not be doing,” Behnke said.
AHA’s Tri-County branch covers the Youngstown area, as well as Mercer and Lawrence counties.
Behnke and her workers see the trend of heart disease and work tirelessly to change the conversation.
“In the Valley, we don’t have the healthiest of cultures. When you look at different obesity charts and rates and high blood pressure and things like that, unfortunately in the tri-county area, we rank above the state and national in percentages of those,” Behnke said.
“So using good, healthy diet options and exercise is great advice. You know, the American Heart Association recommends you get about 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week and about 70 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. So if you’re not a math person, it ends up being like a half-hour a day and the vast majority of Americans, especially where we live, don’t do that,” Mikolich said.
Mikolich recommends maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, which includes quitting smoking. But, a heart attack can happen at any time and to anyone, with very different symptoms.
“The classic symptoms of chest pain and chest pressure are equal for men and women but women also have more atypical symptoms,” Mikolich said.
Including arm pain and feeling like they’ve suddenly come down with the flu.
Regardless of gender, Mikolich says if you’re ever experiencing chest pain, never wait to be seen.
“That’s the wrong approach. If you’re thinking about taking an aspirin because you’re having chest pain, then you should be thinking about calling 911 because you’re having chest pain. So if you’re having chest pain, go to the ER, the closest one to you and get evaluated,” Mikolich said.
“We want to make sure that people don’t have to go through that as often as possible by making sure that people are aware and can make these choices and continue to live longer, healthier lives,” Behnke said.
All this week at 11 p.m., be sure to tune in to 33 WYTV News as we share Stories of the Heart, a week-long series full of local ties and people aimed at raising awareness for heart disease and stroke, making our community heart-healthy for generations to come.