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Heart Truth: Growing awareness, but still No. 1 killer

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Feb 01 2013 10:47:15 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 01 2013 10:56:48 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent spoke with local and national experts about the risks of heart disease, and the growing awareness.

BEND, Ore. -

"High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise." 

Dr. Mike Widmer, a cardiologist with the Heart Center in Bend, is describing some of  the risk factors for heart disease.

Friday was national "Wear Red Day" and February is Heart Disease Awareness Month, and Widmer said people need to pay attention: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States.

"About 400,000 people in the United States suffer heart attacks every year. About 300,000 of those may die suddenly," Widmer said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease causes  one in four deaths in the U.S. 

And while Widmer will continue to do his part to save people's lives, he said there is much more work to be done to get people educated -- especially women.

It's something Dr. Patrice Desvigne-Nickens has dedicated her life to.

Desvigne-Nickens is the program director for the Heart Failure and Arrhythmias Branch in the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Part of her work is through 'The Heart Truth Campaign,' an awareness campaign to educate women about the risks and statistics of heart disease.

"It (heart disease) kills more women than cancer deaths in women combined," Desvigne-Nickens said Friday in a phone interview.

It's known as the silent killer -- but more lives are saved because people and organizations are speaking out.

"We have nearly doubled the awareness over a decade," she said. "Awareness of heart disease in women has improved from around 30 percent to over 54 percent in 2009."

Desvigne-Nickens and Widmer both said fewer people these days are dying from heart disease.

It's due to advances in medicine and technology -- but Desvigne-Nickens said it's also because of the growing awareness of the disease over the last decade.

You may have heard of "Go Red for Women," "The Red Dress Campaign" or have seen the heart disease awareness ads on Diet Coke products.

And there is more good news: Heart disease is largely preventable -- and it is all about health.

"Healthy lifestyles can improve your heart health, and reduce your risk by as much as 80 percent," Desvigne-Nickens said.

That's the message these doctors want to get out: Knowing your risks and living healthy are at the very heart of prevention.

You can learn a lot more about what you can do about heart disease at KTVZ.COM's new "Healthy Heart" section.

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