Cardiovascular disease — which causes 34 percent of all deaths in Alabama — is a serious threat, said cardiologist Dr. James Lee during a Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday.

Lee explained the overall threats of cardiovascular heart disease, and also offered some tips to lower the chances of being affected.

“Alabama has the fourth highest rate for heart disease in the United States,” Lee said. “We have an educational goal to make everyone aware of cardiovascular mortality and how to go on and change it.”

Cardiovascular problems begin to manifest in people as they become older, Lee said.

“The majority of people affected are over 60,” he said. “One million people per year die from cardiovascular disease.”

The major risk factors for heart problems include age, family history, tobacco use, alcohol use and diabetes. Men are also more affected than women, in most cases.

Lee said high blood pressure can cause hypertension, which can later lead to stroke and cardiovascular problems.

“The treatment for that can be a lifestyle change restricting sodium intake,” he said.  “Weight reduction, exercise and avoiding excess alcohol use are also good guidelines.”

High blood pressure can also cause cardiovascular concerns, Lee said.

“You can increase physical activity to help with that, as well as medication tailored to a patient’s needs,” he said.

One major risk factor is smoking, Lee said.

“That doesn’t just cause heart disease, you can also have problems with cancer and emphysema,” he said. “Smoking really does add to that.”

The best way to address cardiovascular problems, Lee said, is check with your local doctor.

“To prevent heart disease, it’s a life long process,” he said.

The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce’s Health Services Committee hosted the luncheon. The topic was chosen because the Alabama Department of Health has launched a statewide health initiative to educate citizens on cardiovascular disease and its impact on our quality and longevity of life, as well as how preventing rather than treating cardiovascular events effect health care costs in Alabama.

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 225.

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