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SPECIAL REPORT: How Heart Disease affects locals in Yuma County

Doctors and patients alike deal with a wide range of issues heart disease presents

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - The Center for Disease Control has found heart disease to be the leading cause of death in the United States. 

For those suffering from heart disease in Yuma, the effects of the disease hit close to home.

February is American Heart Month, and heart disease remains a major problem in Arizona and here in Yuma at hospitals and in hospice care.

"Every year there are almost 800,000 heart attacks in the United States, one person has a heart attack every 34 seconds," said Dr. Preeti Chandra, Director of Preventative Cardiology at Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC).

Yuma County averages 130 deaths per 100,000 people due to complications from heart disease according to the 2022 YRMC health needs assessment.

Dr. Chandra attributes this to age-related issues. "I think the major determinant of that is age, we are all living longer, so I think there’s a higher chance of getting cardiovascular disease."

"Despite mortality rates being lower in Yuma and across Arizona compared to neighboring states like California, the dangers associated with the disease impacts each life touched, such as those who are in need of heart transplants, stints, or bypass surgeries," said Dr. Chandra.

Heart disease is an umbrella term, with many complexities in its causes and effects including diabetes and heart attacks.

For those nearing the end, Yuma Hospice Care has and continues to play a critical role for those who are in the advanced stages of heart disease.

"When we’re talking about cardiovascular disease, we average anywhere between 60 and 65 patients per year, "said John Williams, Executive Director of Yuma Hospice.

Yuma Hospice Care identifies the additional results of heart disease for its patients, which are described as co-morbidities, which include diseases such as cancer or stroke, which can be a byproduct of heart disease.

Local patients in the community with heart disease know the challenges it brings. Barbie Parks said she remembers her first signs and symptoms as if it was yesterday.

"All at once I lost every bit of energy I had in my body, and I knew something was strange, so I said call 911 and the girls did and I got to the hospital," described Parks after her first visit to the hospital.

Now in recovery for several years, Barbie lives a happy and functional life and offers advice for those who may be suffering just like she did at one point. "Live your life to the fullest, follow your doctor's orders, and take care of yourself."

There are a variety of causes of heart disease, but three, in particular, are the most common.

According to Dr. Preeti Chandra, the number one risk factor is high blood pressure, the second is high cholesterol, and the third is smoking.

Dr. Chandra alludes to lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise as the two most important preventative measures in the fight against Heart Disease.

Safe to say diagnosing, treating, and living begins with each beat of the heart.

There are many resources right here in Yuma for those who have or are currently exhibiting symptoms.

Article Topic Follows: Local News

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Court Zeppernick

Court Zeppernick joined the KYMA team as a reporter in October 2022.
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