October 2, 2002 – Getting into the beat of heart-healthy lifestyle 

Getting into the beat of heart-healthy lifestyle

(Editor's note: This is the second in a series of newsletters about PPG's Lifestyle Partnership.)

C ardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans -- both men and women -- according to the American Heart Association. It also accounts for more medical conditions among U.S. PPG employees than any other illness or disease, according to Dr. Alberto Colombi, corporate medical director.

“A heart attack might appear to be a sudden event, but it is the final step in a process that builds up over decades,” he said. “The good news is that it’s highly preventable. A personal commitment and a few dollars spent on preventive medicine can mean maintained health, improved health in the future. In no uncertain terms, it can save lives.”

Age, gender and family history can’t be changed. But people control other risk factors, including weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, lack of physical activity and smoking. By taking simple steps -- including regular blood pressure checks, paying attention to nutrition and exercise, and staying away from smoking -- employees, retirees and their families may avoid costly, life-threatening cardiovascular problems, Colombi said.

Being overweight increases a person’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

A simple calculation to find body mass index (BMI) quickly identifies if a person is overweight and at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. This calculation is a person's weight multiplied by 705, then divided by height in inches (e.g., 5'5" equals 65") and divided again by height in inches. A normal weight is a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9; overweight is 25 to 29.9; and obese is higher than 30.

To lose weight, a person simply needs to consume fewer calories than the body uses, Colombi said. In addition, exercise increases the body’s use of calories. Moderately active people can calculate approximately how many calories their bodies burn daily by multiplying their weight by 15. Less active people should use 13 as the multiplier. If the goal is to lose weight, a person must consume fewer calories per day than what the body needs, burn more calories by increasing physical activity, or do both.

Maintaining a healthy diet is one way to decrease calorie consumption as well as reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels and the risk of stroke. The American Heart Association’s daily
dietary guidelines include five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, six or more servings of grain products (including whole grain) and fat-free and low-fat milk products. Fish, beans, skinless poultry, lean meats, fats and oils with two grams or less of saturated fat per tablespoon and low sodium use are also heart-healthy dietary habits.

Daily physical activity helps to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease. “Whether it’s a brisk 30-minute walk around the neighborhood, a lunchtime stroll, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, we need to keep moving to keep the heart and blood vessels in top shape,” Colombi said.

Everyone can benefit from the American Heart Walk -- a non-competitive walking event that raises money to fight heart disease and stroke. A nationwide schedule of “heart walks” is available through the American Heart Association. Colombi also encourages members of the PPG family who smoke to participate in the annual Great American Smokeout, Nov. 21. The American Cancer Society sponsors the annual event to encourage smokers to quit for good. “An estimated 47 million U.S. adults smoke, and the habit is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease as well as a host of other health problems,” he said.

By avoiding use of nicotine, maintaining healthy levels for weight, cholesterol and blood pressure, and by increasing physical activity, people can take an active role in preventing cardiovascular disease. “The result is a healthier life,” Colombi said, “and lower health-care costs for all.”

Click here to learn more about cardiovascular health, diabetes, muscle and bone health, depression and women's health.

‘It saved my life’

Herm Bono felt fine, but knew it was time for his regular physical exam this past July. Tests turned up a slight cardiac irregularity. Nothing conclusive, but doctors advised him to take additional tests.

“It’s a good thing they did, or I might not be here today,” said Bono, manager of industrial relations, corporate human resources. Tests eventually turned up two severely blocked arteries. Bono underwent coronary double-bypass surgery July 31 -- and was back to work in September.

“My doctor said I should thank PPG for the medical insurance programs, because without the tests my problem would have gone undiagnosed and I would have had a heart attack very soon,” Bono said. “Now I’m exercising a lot more, and trying a lot harder to control my diet and weight. If there’s a message here it’s to be sure to take care of yourself, and even when you think you feel OK, take advantage of the preventive medical measures available to you. I did, and it might have saved my life.”

U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services

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