Heart Attack, A Silent Killer

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – Liza Soriano was part of group touring California and Nevada some years ago. When they were in Las Vegas, she felt a tugging pain in her chest. Because she did not want to spoil the tour, she just sat meekly by on a corner although she was having shortness of breath and was breaking out in cold sweat.

Fortunately, one of her companions noticed that she was perspiring when everybody else was enjoying a cozy indoor temperature.

So, someone described in a phone call her condition to another, who has knowledge of Soriano’s symptoms. The call recipient advised one of them to call 9-1-1 and rushed her to the nearest hospital.

“Meron kaming buffet sa Las Vegas nang nakaramdam ako ng parang suntok sa aking dibdib. Kung mag-re-reklamo ako, mapupurnada ang tour namin.  Pero dahil nahihiya ako na masira ang tour namin, tahimik na lang ako,” (We were having a buffet in Las Vegas when I felt a sudden blow in my chest. Because I was ashamed to complain to kill the fun, I just sulked in a corner.), Soriano recalled.

Soriano was later told by doctors if her treatment were delayed by about six more minutes, her heart attack would have been fatal as she was already having zero blood pressure.

“Siguro ako’y binuhay ng Diyos so I can tell you my story.” (It was possible God saved me to tell you my story.) was how Soriano described to a group of middle-aged Filipino community members last Saturday (April 13) attending healthy heart workshop sponsored by Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights & Empowerment (AFIRE) headed by Executive Director Jerry B. Clarito and Blue Cross Blue Shield at AFIRE’s headquarters at 7315 North Western in Chicago’s north side.

Among the warning signs that could lead to heart attack are as follows:

Your chest hurts or feels squeezed; discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath; breaking out in cold sweat; nausea; and lightheadedness.

These are some of results of the studies conducted by the American Diabetes Association AFIRE Healthy Heart Healthy Family (HHHF) program facilitator Sally Velasco-Richmond pointed out during heart health workshop that will hold a short version on April 27 and a graduation on May 11 for members of the group, who have been religiously attending the workshop. Graduating group members, in turn, will spread the knowledge they learned on preventive healthy heart care to apply it to themselves, their relatives, friends and the community at large.


According to recent studies, Filipinos have the fourth highest percentage among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI’s), including Filipinos, Vietnamese, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian and Asian Indians, to incur heart disease. Its risk factors include those that cannot be changed as age, gender and ethnicity and those that can be changed such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity and diabetes.

In order to lower high blood pressure, one needs to take less salt and sodium; eat more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products; aim for a healthy weight; be physically active on most days, check blood pressure at least every two years or more often if you have prehypertension or high blood pressure; stop smoking; cut back on alcohol; if you have high blood pressure, take your blood pressure medicine as per doctor’s order.

A desirable blood cholesterol level is 200 milligrams (mgs) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood or less. It becomes borderline high when it gets to 200 mgs/dL and up to 239 mgs/dL and high if it goes to 240 mgs/dL or more.

Among the side effects of high blood cholesterol levels, according to the personal experience of Velasco-Richmond, was that she was “outbalanced and tagilid ang mukha (her face favors one side). It is also high risks for heart attack, strokes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and an irregular heart rhythm.

To lower the high blood cholesterol level, which afflicts one in four Filipinos, one needs to get his blood cholesterol level checked; eat fewer foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol; stay physically active; and aim for a healthy weight.

Because 76 percent of Filipinos in Hawaii lead sedentary lifestyles as AAPI’s are less physically active compared to other populations, Filipinos double their chances of having heart disease and can take away years from their lives. And physical inactivity increases risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes that could lead to overweight or obesity.

To be physically active, one needs to exercise at least 30 minutes on most days; makes physical activity a group effort; takes stairs instead of elevator; and play actively with children or grandchildren.

Since California has more overweight Filipinos than any other AAPI subgroup, it means Filipinos have extra fat stored in their body. This increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.

To find out if someone is overweight, he has to calculate his Body Mass Index (BMI), a measuring tool that compares your height to your weight and gives you an indication of whether you are overweight, underweight or at a healthy weight for your height. A graph was presented to the participants by Ms. Aleg Bacierdo, a registered nurse, during the workshop. It shows that if one has a BMI of 25 or less, it means, it is a healthy weight. But if the BMI ranges from 25 to 29.9, it means, it is overweight. But if the BMI is 30 or more, it means one is obese.


A formula this reporter found online (http://tinyurl.com/23ukh5m) to calculate BMI manually is as follows:

BMI = Weight in Pounds (Kilograms) divided by Height in inches (meters) times Height in inches (meters) multiplied by 703.

For instance, in this reporter’s case, the height is five feet and four inches and the weight is 140 pounds. To find the BMI, the height  would first be converted into inches, which is 64 inches. Sixty-four will then be multiplied by 64, which has a product of 4096 inches. If 140 (dividend) is divided by 4096 (divisor), the quotient will be .034. If .034 is multiplied by 703, it will have a product of 24 BMI, which means this reporter’s BMI is within the healthy range at less than 25.

Another risk factor for heart attack is diabetes, which is present in nearly one out of every five adult Filipinos among AAPIs. If you have diabetes, it means your body cannot use the food that you eat for energy. Diabetes is serious but you may not know it. Diabetes leads to heart attack, blindness, amputations and kidney disease.

To protect oneself from diabetes, one has to find out first if he has diabetes. If one has diabetes, he has to have a regular check up of blood sugar level.

Among the myths and truths discussed during the workshop were as follows:

Heart Health Myth 1

Myth: Working to earn money for my family is more important than eating nutritious foods or making time to be physically active.

Truth: Working is just as important as eating nutritious foods and being physically active. If you spend a lot of time at work, try to fit in some physical activity during your workday. Walk during your break time, or take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Heart health Myth 2

Myth: Heart disease is hereditary, so there is nothing that I can do to avoid it.

Truth: Heart disease can be hereditary, but you can also take stops to lower your risk of developing hearth disease or to keep it under control.

Heart Health Myth 3

Myth: My family and I are overweight and obese. Being fat is good because it is a visual evidence that we have good economic status.

Truth: Being overweight or obese is not good to your heart. It can increase your chance of developing high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes. It is best to keep at a healthy weight by being active at least 30 minutes a day. If you need to lose weight, you must choose foods with fewer calories or become more physically active. It is best to do both.

Heart health Myth 4

Myth: Smoking makes me look cool and sophisticated. I smoke because it is a normal and natural process of growing up.

Truth: Smoking does not make you look cool and sophisticated. Smoking is addictive. It can harm your heart and lungs. It can raise your blood pressure and blood cholesterol and those of others around the smoker. If you smoke, stop smoking today. If you can’t quit the first time, keep trying. Get support from family members and friends. Find support groups or smoking cessation classes in your local community. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

Photo caption:

WHEN SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN: Liza Soriano (center, standing) gestures how she had a heart attack that she downplayed because she did not know about it.“Meron kaming buffet sa Las Vegas nang nakaramdam ako ng parang suntok sa aking dibdib. Kung mag-re-reklamo ako, mapupurnada ang tour naming.  Pero dahil nahihiya ako na masira ang tour naming, tahimik na lang ako,” (We were having a buffet in Las Vegas when I felt a sudden blow in my chest. Because I was ashamed to complain to kill the fun, I just sulked in a corner.),  Looking on left standing is Cita Dionisio, among those from left seated are Tito Cabangon, David Maanes, Gloria Cabangon, Pat Sampan and Lita and Roger Anquillano. There will be short version workshop on April 27 and graduation on May 11. (FAXX/jGLi Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

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