NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

February 6, 2014

Make heart health a priority this month

To the editor:

Having a son born with a life-threatening congenital heart defect, heart disease has been significantly impacting our family for over 19 years. Just over two years ago, cardiovascular disease touched my family in another way when my father suffered a massive stroke and never regained consciousness. The loss of my father, combined with my son’s heart disease, has compelled me to be an advocate for the American Heart Association.

Unfortunately, I know my family’s story isn’t unique. Congenital heart disease is considered to be the most common birth defect and heart disease and stroke are our No. 1 and No. 4 killers respectively.

The good news is that 80 percent of heart disease and stroke can be prevented. You can help improve your family’s health by knowing your family history and risk factors. Taking simple measures like eating right and exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease. It’s not easy, but the results are life-saving. Experts recommend starting with a couple small changes like reducing sodium in your diet or taking the stairs over the elevator at work. And doctors remind us that managing cholesterol and blood pressure are essential as is not smoking. There are things we can do to reduce our risks.

This February, during American Heart Month and Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week, I am proud to serve as a Go Red For Women spokesperson in Massachusetts. I hope that we all take this month to make a commitment to improving our health.

On behalf of the American Heart Association, I’m asking our community and neighbors to join me in making our heart health a priority.

Diane Pickles

Haverhill

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