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Heart Illnesses Can Sneak Up, Even for Healthy People

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The American Heart Association says more than 22% of deaths in Wisconsin are caused by heart disease. (imelenchon/Morguefile)
The American Heart Association says more than 22% of deaths in Wisconsin are caused by heart disease. (imelenchon/Morguefile)
February 4, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- Living a healthy lifestyle doesn't guarantee you won't end up with a heart illness. A Wisconsin doctor, along with a heart attack survivor, is raising awareness about warning signs.

February is American Heart Month, and experts say it's a good time to remind people about getting screened for heart disease. Aurora Health Care cardiovascular surgeon Dr. David Kress said the diagnostic part of the process is huge, because it leads to treatment that can prevent something more serious.

"Going to the doctor to make sure that you don't have high blood pressure, you don't have diabetes and you don't have high lipids is pretty important, because these are things that can really only be determined by looking for them," Kress said.

He said not smoking also is a huge step in preventing heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, a person suffers a heart attack in the U.S. every 43 seconds. In Wisconsin, roughly 265,000 people have coronary-artery disease.

Kim Christenson is a heart attack survivor from the Milwaukee area. She said when she had her scare four years ago, she was exercising regularly and was in great shape overall. And while her cholesterol levels were on the higher end, she had no obvious signs of a heart attack in her future.

"I imagine everybody is a little bit like me, like, 'Yeah, I'm fine,' or, 'My doctor says I'm OK,' and then you kind of coast with that feeling," Christenson said. "Instead, I think taking some extra measures to make sure you're solid in your health, not a bad idea."

Christenson and others say in addition to screenings and following up on them, sharing your family's heart history is a key prevention tool. As part of National Heart Month, Friday, February 7, is Wear Red Day, where people are urged to don red attire to raise awareness for heart disease.

Disclosure: American Heart Association of Wisconsin contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Smoking Prevention. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI