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TDH Encourages Everyone to Prevent Heart Attacks

Thursday, February 12, 2015 | 09:56am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health reminds everyone to make heart health a top priority during American Heart Month and throughout the year. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and the number one killer of women.

“Heart disease is something everyone should take very seriously, and there are many things we can do to reduce our risk,” said Carolyn Wester, MD, MPH, Deputy Medical Director for the TDH Division of Family Health and Wellness. “If you have symptoms of a heart attack, seek help immediately. Every second counts.”

Wester knows first-hand the impact heart disease can have: She suffered a sudden, massive heart attack at age 44 and underwent cardiac bypass surgery. She believes her efforts to maintain good heart health before the heart attack, saved her life.

“I have always been very active, a runner and ate right,” Wester said. “I was very lucky to recognize the problem early because the heart attack symptoms for women are very subtle. They don’t always include sudden chest pain. You do know you’re not feeling normal and those are signs you can’t ignore.”

Heart attack symptoms include pain, discomfort or tightness in the middle of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. However, heart attack symptoms in women may vary and include upper back pain, shoulder pain, jaw pain and pressure in the center of the chest.

For people with heart disease, studies have shown lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease, having a nonfatal heart attack and needing heart bypass surgery or angioplasty. For people without heart disease, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels can reduce the risk for developing heart disease.

“Watching your diet is essential to good heart health,” Wester said. “Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, limit your food portions and get plenty of exercise. I recommend about 30 minutes of exercise 4 to 5 times a week to get your heart pumping.”

Smoking is the leading preventable risk factor for heart disease in people who smoke. Tennesseans who smoke are urged to contact the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free information about cessation programs and services. TDH reminds everyone to reduce other risk factors of heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at http://health.state.tn.us/.