Taking the pressure off your heart

      Every thirty-five seconds, someone in the U.S. dies of cardiovascular disease. That adds up to a million deaths a year, many of which could be prevented. That's why it's so important to lessen the strain on your heart.

      That advice is often ignored during the winter months, especially when it comes to shoveling large amounts of snow.

      "Being outside in the cold, it causes spasms of the arteries and heart. Plus, if you're doing a lot of aerobic activity and lifting, and if you're someone who doesn't exercise a lot, and you have a severe blockage, you don't recognize it as being a problem, until you go out and shovel. Many deaths occur every year because of that," said Dr. John Hammock, a cardiologist at Blessing Hospital.

      Dr. Hammock is teaming up with local physicians around town to help raise heart awareness for the month of February.

      "The purpose of heart month is to one, let people know it's a growing and worsening problem. Two, to educated people on what they can do to recognize the symptoms of heart attack or stroke, and third to let people know how they can decrease their chances of having that problem," said Hammock. "One of the biggest things right now is the obesity epidemic and how that indirectly leads to every risk factor of developing heart disease down the road."

      Aside from obesity, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol are also leading causes of heart disease.

      Anyone wanting to learn more about their heart and health can attend a wellness event this month. Blessing Hospital will host a Health Fair at the Oakley Lindsay Center on the 19th. From 10 to 1:30 p.m., staff will provide a variety of free screenings including blood pressure and preliminary EKG's.