Heart healthy fingertip help

With February being American Heart Month, there is no better time to take steps to improve your heart’s health by embracing a better diet and regular exercise. The 2011 edition of the Franciscan Heart Diet booklet can be a helpful guide during this journey.

The 42-page, full-color publication is loaded with information, including answers by medical experts to frequently-asked questions and easy recipes for heart-healthy meals. Copies can be ordered, free of charge, by calling 1-888-825-3227 toll-free.

The heart is the human body’s hardest working organ. Throughout life, it continuously pumps blood enriched with oxygen and vital nutrients through a network of arteries to all tissues of the body. To perform this strenuous task, the heart muscle itself needs a plentiful supply of oxygen-rich blood, provided through a network of coronary arteries. These arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart’s muscular walls.

The most important things that men and women can do to protect their hearts are: do not smoke; eat a healthy diet, low in fat, high in fiber, with high-quality carbohydrates; and exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

If you follow these steps diligently, you will have a much better chance of avoiding the high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess weight and inactivity that contribute to heart disease.

Franciscan Health System, which includes St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw, provides an online quiz that helps men and women determine their risk for heart disease. Those at risk will receive a follow-up heart-health screening, free of charge. Take the HeartAware test at

Common signs and symptoms of heart attack include:

• Chest pain or discomfort (angina), which can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest. With heart attack, the pain usually lasts for more than a few minutes but it may increase and decrease in intensity. Women are less likely to experience chest pain than are men.

• Discomfort in the upper body, including the arms, neck, back, jaw, or stomach.

• Shortness of breath, which can occur with or without chest pain.

• Nausea and vomiting.

• Breaking out in cold sweat.

• Lightheadedness or fainting.

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you believe you or a loved one is suffering a heart attack.

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