Heart disease kills more people in the Norwood, Kingsbridge Heights and Bedford Park sections of the Bronx than cancer, says the city Health Department.
At Montefiore Medical Center, nearly four dozen staffers strolled around so-called “Montefiore Mile” to set an example and make a point: walking can dramatically reduce one’s chance of developing heart disease. Four trips around the indoor path found at the hospital’s Moses Campus in Norwood equate to a mile.
“You’re maintaining and building heart muscles,” said Dr. Mario Garcia, co-director of the Montefiore-Einstein Center for Heart & Vascular Care and professor and chief division of cardiology at Montefiore and Einstein College of Medicine. “The more amount of muscle mass the more energy you have.”
Staffers clad in red spent their 11 o’clock walking the halls of “Montefiore Mile” alongside Dr. Stephen Safyer, CEO and president of Montefiore Health System, who’s joined staffers for the yearly event since it began in 2008. Dr. Peter P. Semczuk, senior vice president and executive director of the Moses Campus, was also on hand.
It happened on Feb. 1, the start of Heart Month. Overall, the Bronx fares poorly when it comes to heart disease. Health officials continually rank heart disease as the leading cause of death in the Bronx.
The mission to reduce heart disease has prompted Montefiore to dispatch a cardiovascular outreach team to educate patients on the benefits of maintaining a healthy heart. Its propensity to educate as a form or prevention has made Montefiore a leader in preventing coronary artery disease through the Cardiac Wellness Program. The program encourages changes in lifestyle and eating habits as a way to reverse heart disease.
Heart transplant surgeries are common at Montefiore (last year there were 49 heart transplant surgeries at the hospital), though a last resort. Exercise stands as a critical tool to preventing heart disease. That includes walking to stop the development of arteriosclerosis, a condition that thickens artery walls, making it tougher for blood to flow through smoothly. The condition is known to cause heart attacks and obesity.
The typical age for men to develop heart disease starts in ones 50s. In some instances, Dr. Garcia, who’s been a doctor since 1986, has occasionally treated heart disease patients in their mid-30s.
Eating less greasy foods and exercising more are just some simple tips that can reduce the chances of developing heart disease, said Dr. Garcia. He admits it’s not always easy given unorthodox Bronx residents’ work schedules. But avoiding fatty foods is certainly one step.
“It may have worked for the caveman, but the caveman probably died by age 30 or age 40,” he said.