Heart disease includes a number of different diseases which affect the heart and circulatory system. The most common type, coronary artery disease (CAD), can lead to a heart attack. CAD occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Plaque is made up of cholesterol deposits, which can accumulate in the arteries and cause the arteries to narrow over time. This can lead to an angina, which happens when the heart muscle does not get enough blood. It can cause chest pain or discomfort, one of the signs of a heart attack. This can lead to heart failure, when the heart cannot pump enough blood through the body, or arrhythmias, an abnormal heartbeat. Heart disease may present suddenly, like a heart attack, but can also be a gradual weakening of the heart.
Many things can contribute to heart disease, including behaviors, other health conditions, and genetic factors. Tobacco use, diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption raise the risk of heart disease. Reducing tobacco use, eating a more fruits and vegetables, being physically active, reducing excess weight, and avoiding excess alcohol consumption can help lower the risk of heart disease. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes are all risk factors for heart disease. Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure to normal limits and carefully controlling diabetes can reduce the risk of heart disease. Genetics can also play a role; those with a family history of heart disease should be especially vigilant about reducing the risks of heart disease.
Good News: During the past 5 years, the rate of heart disease death in Kern County has dropped more than 15%. Kern County’s heart disease mortality rate dropped so far so fast that in one year, Kern County’s heart disease death state-wide ranking improved 4 spots. The heart disease mortality rate is half of what it was in 1994.
Reducing tobacco use, eating more fruits and vegetables, being physical active, reducing excess weight, and avoiding access alcohol can help lower the risk of heart disease. Addressing and controlling existing medical conditions, such as lowering blood pressure or cholesterol to normal level and managing diabetes can also reduce the risk. Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider to prevent or treat any medical conditions that raise the risk of heart disease; always follow your doctor’s instructions.
In 2010, Kern County commenced the Call to Action [link to CTA], a community-wide collaborate to focus attention on chronic disease and obesity. The Kern County Call to Action: Chronic Disease and Obesity Plan [link to plan .pdf] aims to build awareness about the risks of obesity and obesity-related chronic disease, support individual lifestyle changes through policy and environmental change, and provide guidance to Kern County residents interested in addressing obesity issues.
Kern County participates in the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention program [link to NEOP], spearheading efforts to provide nutrition education and promote physical activity countywide. Working with local schools, county agencies, academic institutions, and community groups, Kern County Public Health Services Department supports innovative efforts like community gardens, free physical activity classes, and improved access to fresh and healthy foods.