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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   February 5, 2002


Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan

Heart Disease Can Be Deadly, But Can Be Prevented

TRENTON - February is known as the month to give your heart to the one you love. And there's no better way to do so than by taking steps to prevent heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more lives each year than cancer, accidents and AIDS combined. Coronary artery disease (clogging of the arteries) causes about 1.5 million heart attacks a year, with about one-third of victims dying. More than 250,000 people with heart attacks die before even getting to the hospital.

Because heart disease can be deadly and sometimes strikes without warning, it's important to recognize risk factors. Several risk factors are not changeable. For instance, heart disease is more likely in males and post-menopausal women, older adults and people with family history of heart disease.

However, there are risk factors that can be impacted. New Jersey's Acting Commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. offers these suggestions on ways to reduce the risk of heart disease:

  • Don't smoke. Smokers have more than twice the risk for heart disease as non-smokers and are more likely to die from a heart attack. Smoking is the most preventable risk factor. If you smoke, quit. If you don't smoke, don't start.
  • Keep your cholesterol under control. High blood cholesterol levels increase the risk for coronary artery disease. Men over 30 and women over 40 should have their cholesterol levels checked. People with family history of heart disease should have it checked even earlier. No matter what your family history, however, keep your diet low in cholesterol and saturated fats to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for heart disease.
  • Check your blood pressure. More than 50 million Americans have hypertension, making it the most common heart disease risk factor. Make sure your physician evaluates your blood pressure and prescribes medication if needed.
  • Exercise. People with sedentary lifestyles, both at work and in their leisure time, have higher rates of death and heart disease compared to people who exercise even modest amounts. You don't have to belong to a gym or become a long-distance runner. Even leisure-time activities such as gardening, bowling or walking can lower the risk for heart disease.

Before undergoing any change in lifestyle, consult your physician to help you accomplish all of these preventive goals and take the first steps towards a healthier heart and a longer life.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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