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FOR RELEASE: September 2, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

The Heart Truth - Heart Disease is the Number One Killer of Oklahomans

The Heart Truth is that heart disease is the number one cause of death in Oklahoma, according to officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH). Most recent statistics available indicate that heart disease killed more than 11,000 people in Oklahoma or 30 Oklahomans each day.

The OSDH Chronic Disease Service and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute are partnering to educate the public about heart disease and heart disease prevention through participation in a national public education campaign called The Heart Truth. This campaign will feature a yearlong effort to tell people, especially women, about the risk factors of heart disease and provide prevention education.

Some of the risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, being overweight, being physically inactive, age (45 years and older for men and 55 years and older for women), and having a family history of early heart disease.

“One in three Oklahoma adults has high blood pressure and one in five Oklahoma adults has high cholesterol. This is a very serious heart health concern,” noted State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “Behaviors such as tobacco use, lack of regular physical activity, poor nutrition, and being overweight are areas where people can help themselves and take control of their lives by changing harmful behaviors to improve their health.”

Having an active and healthy lifestyle, along with a nutritious diet, will decrease the risk of developing high blood pressure (HBP). People with HBP have three to four times the risk of developing heart disease than those without HBP. If your HBP measures 120/80 or greater, there is a need to modify lifestyle behaviors to help reduce your blood pressure.

High cholesterol is another critical risk factor of heart disease and there are little or no signs or symptoms until chest pain or a heart attack occur. When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries in the form of plaque. Over time, this plaque buildup causes hardening of the arteries so that they become narrowed and blood flow to the heart is slowed down or blocked. The blood carries oxygen to the heart and if enough blood and oxygen cannot reach your heart, you may suffer chest pain. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely shut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.

“Choosing nutritious eating habits, such as including five fruits and vegetables a day and limiting foods that contain saturated fat, along with consistent physical activity at a moderate intensity all or most days of the week, and reducing tobacco use, will help reduce high cholesterol to a healthier level,” Beitsch said.

Fifty-nine percent of adult Oklahomans were overweight, while 22.6 percent were reportedly obese in 2001, according to data from the Oklahoma Behavioral Risk Factor Survey. Regular and sustained physical activity and proper nutrition can reduce excessive body weight and minimize a person’s risk of dying from heart disease. Moderately intense physical activity for 30 to 45 minutes a day may include walking, gardening, bicycling, dancing, etc.

“ Improving food nutrient intake and eating smaller portions can help reduce the occurrence of heart disease,” Beitsch said. “I encourage all Oklahomans to follow the advice of The Heart Truth education efforts. It won’t necessarily be easy to change old habits, but the rewards of good health, energy, and ability to more fully enjoy life are great!”

For more information about heart disease, including monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels, contact your health care provider or local county health department. To find out more about The Heart Truth campaign, call the OSDH Chronic Disease Service at 405/271-4072.

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