FE W MON THS BACK, MY 79-YEAR-OLD DAD REQUIRED OPEN-
heart surgery. He’d been prepping for another shoulder
surgery when his orthopedic surgeon referred him to a
cardiologist. He needed a triple bypass and potential valve
In my work, “risk, conse-
quence, probability” is the mantra.
Yet we don’t apply the same level of
importance to every risk, and we ignore some risks completely. What’s
more, we regard consequences
inaccurately or deny there will be
negative ones. As for probability, we
almost always ignore probability.
Heart disease remains the top
killer of American adults, and it has
been for nearly 80 years. According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, roughly 610,000 people die of heart
disease each year. There is no cure, but we can reduce stroke
and heart attack death rates. Meanwhile, millions of Americans ignore warnings to stop smoking, to exercise more and to
“This disease is truly a byproduct of today’s society as
80 percent of the time, heart disease is preventable,” said
Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist with the American Heart
Association. “We’ve become a sedentary culture that eats
really bad stuff, we’re extremely stressed and we have higher
incidences of diabetes and obesity.”
Heart disease affects men and women equally, and it’s
affecting the population at a much younger age. A Cleveland
Clinic review discovered that the average age of patients treat-
ed for the most deadly form of heart attack decreased from
64 to 60 while the number of people with at least three major
risk factors increased from 65 to
The Women’s Heart Foun-
dation reports that 35,000 women
younger than 55 experience heart
attacks every year, although the
average age for heart attack is 66
for men and 70 for women.
Genetics can’t be discounted,
but for most heart disease cases,
lifestyle is the culprit.
According to the Mayo
Clinic, a single risk factor from the list below may cause heart
failure. A combination of them increases risk:
• High blood pressure. Your heart works harder if your
blood pressure is high.
• Coronary artery disease. Narrowed arteries may limit your
heart’s supply of oxygen-rich blood, resulting in weakened
• Heart attack. A heart attack is a form of coronary disease
that occurs suddenly. Damage to your heart muscle from
a heart attack might mean your heart can no longer pump
as well as it should.
• Diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
by Art Sodermark
Ideas and Solutions
for Safer Workplaces