Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are the leading causes of death nationwide. The same is true in the Chicago area.
Number of deaths caused by heart disease in Illinois in 2008 (the latest numbers available)
Portion of deaths caused by heart disease in Chicago in 2008
Portion of deaths caused by heart disease in suburban Cook County in 2008
Portion of deaths caused by heart disease in DuPage County in 2008
American Heart Association
Updated: February 14, 2012 10:53AM
Actress Elizabeth Banks made a funny little film called “Just a Little Heart Attack.”
Posted on the American Heart Association website www.goredforwomen.org, the film uses a good dose of humor to promote a serious message: Women have heart attacks, too, and their symptoms can vary from those typically seen in men.
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain, according to the heart association.
Spreading awareness is one way the organization is working to eliminate heart disease — the No. 1 killer in America. And the Chicago area is starting to get the message, said Dr. Andrew Rauh, chief of cardiology at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital and a board member of the American Heart Association of Greater Chicago.
The statewide smoking ban has helped, but is still in its infancy, he said. Now people are starting to catch on to diet and exercise as disease-fighting parts of their lifestyles as well.
Rauh said that particularly in the suburbs, physical education programs such as Naperville’s PE4Life focus on getting kids the recommended 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
Cafeteria food is getting healthier in more affluent school districts, he said. There, students will find more salad bars and fewer soda vending machines to help them make better choices throughout the day.
With initiatives like these, Rauh sees a future without heart disease.
One key to that future is the heart association’s “Get With the Guidelines” program, a push to get hospitals to give great heart care. Another key factor is preventing heart disease in the first place. The American Heart Association of Greater Chicago is working on the following prevention programs:
Teaching gardens to encourage school children to eat more fruits and vegetables
Cooking classes to help parents prepare healthy meals for their families
Walking clubs and walking paths to promote exercise and safe places to walk
Fit-Friendly Company Program to recognize employee wellness initiatives
Heart Walks to celebrate healthy lifestyles and fund research and health initiatives
The community has made a difference with simple steps. Rauh cited a study of automatic external defibrillators at three Chicago airports that showed AEDs can increase the short-term and one-year survival rates of people who suffer heart attacks in high-traffic public areas.
Hands-only CPR also makes it easier for people to help those who go into sudden cardiac arrest. CPR is an important skill Rauh would like more people to know.
“My goal is every kid who graduates from high school in DuPage County knows CPR,” Rauh said. “We’d have a whole army of people out there. If you’re walking down Michigan Avenue and someone goes down, you’re not going to have a doctor or nurse there. But it would be nice to have someone there to start CPR.”