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An alarming update on heart health

Last Modified: January 29, 2020

Heart Health

heart disease

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal brought to light a startling rise in heart disease across the country, even in states considered to be “healthy”. The increasing number of middle-aged Americans dying of heart disease and stroke is at an all-time high, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, ranks in the top 10 for cities experiencing a rise in cases. Jessica Barkdull, NP, PPG – Cardiology, discusses what these numbers really mean, simple ways to improve your cardiovascular health, and how Parkview can assist you on your journey.

Where does Fort Wayne stand in the rankings?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Indiana is currently ranked as the 12th most obese state in the U.S. and placed 13th when it comes to the country's No. 1 killer, cardiovascular disease.

Many people consider cardiovascular disease something that hits in the later years, but the CDC's most recent statistics show an increase in the number of middle-aged people, ages 45-65, who are affected by the disease. In fact, Fort Wayne, Indiana specifically now ranks 7th in the nation for the fastest-growing rates of cardiovascular disease in middle-aged individuals.

In addition, the Allen County Department of Health reported that heart disease was the No. 2 killer of Allen County residents in 2018, with cancer reported as No. 1.

What contributes to these numbers?

There are several types of heart disease, but coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease that leads to heart attacks, is the primary cause of heart disease.

Additionally, non-modifiable risk factors such as family history, age and sex as well as modifiable risk factors like diet, exercise, weight, tobacco use, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure all contribute to our chances of developing heart disease.

How can we impact these numbers in a positive way?

Lifestyle comes first! A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is key and the most heart healthy eating patterns are seen in the Mediterranean diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and a vegetarian diet. Along with a healthy diet, you should:


  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Know and control your numbers for cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.
  • Make sure you are getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night (for adults).
  • Be sure to manage your stress with activities such as deep breathing, prayer, yoga and meditation.


  • Avoid tobacco products.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption. No more than two alcohol-containing drinks, per day, for men and no more than one, per day, for women.
How can Parkview be a partner for people on this journey?

Speak with your primary care provider about your cardiovascular risk. If you’re over the age of 40 and have at least one risk factor for heart disease, you should consider a HeartSmart CT scan to provide more insight to your cardiovascular health. Also, meet with a provider in the Cardiovascular Health & Wellness Clinic to review your risk factors and changes you can make to work toward a more heart healthy lifestyle.

Final thoughts

Even though heart disease is the No. 1 life-taker of Americans, you have the power to avoid being another statistic! It’s never too late to make positive lifestyle changes. We all have at least one lifestyle change we could improve on. Remember, small steps count, and little improvements can make a big impact!

For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit the Cardiovascular Health & Wellness Clinic online or call 260-266-5680.

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