By Josette Keelor
FRONT ROYAL -- Waiting to treat symptoms of a heart attack can be deadly, but recognizing risk factors and symptoms isn't always easy.
In a free three-hour program Tuesday morning, staff at Warren Memorial Hospital in Front Royal explained how to recognize heart attacks and increase heart health through diet, exercise and education.
The program ended with information about the Chronic Disease Management program at the hospital's outpatient center.
Heart disease accounts for 1 in every 4 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's the leading cause of death for men and women.
Early detection is key to surviving a heart attack, but according to Sharrisa Jewell, a registered nurse at Warren Memorial Hospital, many people ignore symptoms and risk factors.
"Treatment should begin within one hour of having symptoms," she said. "The longer you wait, the more damage is occurring."
Signs of a heart attack are pain in the left arm, chest or upper body or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach; shortness of breath; nausea, lightheadedness or cold sweats.
Risk factors include smoking, obesity, and having diabetes, an inactive lifestyle or a poor diet.
Guest speaker Sharon Snapp didn't have what she thought were usual symptoms during a massive heart attack in April 2013. She also didn't have the risk factors.
Her blood pressure and cholesterol were normal, she wasn't overweight, never smoked and would regularly ride her bike 20 to 30 miles along Front Royal's Skyline Drive.
Her husband called 911 when she complained of cold sweats and shoulder pain.
"I have a bad shoulder, but it never even bothered me and [during the heart attack] it was sore to the touch," she said.
Front Royal resident Arnold Williams, who attended Tuesday's program, recalled a similar experience.
"I thought I pulled a muscle, and I passed it off," he said. "I didn't have the symptoms that all my life I had heard about. It just didn't happen."
Paying attention to pain saves lives, Jewell said. If you think you're having a heart attack, call 911 instead of driving to the hospital. It saves time and ensures correct treatment, she said.
"None of us think it can happen to us, but believe me, it can happen to any of us in this room," she said.
Certified Personal Trainer Michael Mitchell, who organized Tuesday's program, and Clinical Dietician Jade Menio spoke on preventing heart disease through an active and healthy lifestyle.
Mitchell's father had two or three unrealized heart attacks before the one that hospitalized him, and Mitchell credited his father's level of exercise with saving his life.
"Sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading risks," Mitchell said. But an exercise plan needs to be done correctly to count toward good health. Weightlifting routines and strenuous cardio routines should include a warm up and cool down period.
Even after a workout, he said, "Your heart's still pumping like you're running."
He and Menio defined heart healthy foods as ones low in sodium, cholesterol and saturated and trans fats.
Cholesterol is in any animal-based product, Menio said, and sodium will be in almost any grocery store item that isn't fresh from the fields.
Especially misleading are foods claiming they're free of trans fats -- companies can make that claim if their product contains fewer than .5 grams of partially-hydrogenated oils -- or those that say they're low in sodium. Many low sodium soups still have two servings per can, she said, and people don't stop at one serving.
Mitchell agreed, "Fresh is the best way to go."
"I look at protein, sugars and fats. Check out sodium too. Focus on a good diet."
Warren Memorial Hospital is located at 1,000 N. Shenandoah Ave., Front Royal. For information on upcoming programs, call 540-636-0300.
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org