LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Millions of Americans are affected by heart disease.
One of them is Melanie Baldwin.
She has had to think about heart health all of her life.
“I just don't think we think long term. I think we are just thinking about this week or this day,” Baldwin said.
She was born with a congenital heart defect and has survived numerous heart valve surgeries and cardiac arrest in 2013.
“I'm on this medication the rest of my life, but I think it's a good trade off because in exchange I get to breathe in and out," Baldwin said.
But the American Heart Association says more than 121 million Americans had some sort of cardiovascular disease in 2016. That's nearly half of all U.S. adults.
That number takes into account those with high blood pressure which raises the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Elisa Brown is a physician assistant.
“Blood pressure is a big one,” said Brown.
New guidelines for high blood pressure readings were adopted in 2017 which could account for the increase, but lifestyle choices are a huge factor.
“It's diet mostly in the United States,” Brown said.” Of course, we know that. That's a no brainer.”
"If I could change my lifestyle and fix what's wrong with me it would be amazing,” said Baldwin. “I think of all the people that have that opportunity to actually take control of their lives and to make a difference. If they just exercise a little more, ate a little better and stop smoking," she continued.
Brown said you should also control diabetes if you have it, and start getting regular checks on your blood pressure and cholesterol beginning at age 40. Earlier if heart disease runs in your family.
"And I know it sounds like I’m preaching, but this is not a club you want to belong to," Baldwin said.