A hundred years ago, heart disease was America’s number one killer. People with heart disease were thought to require complete bed rest or they would face imminent death. “We were living in a time of almost unbelievable ignorance about heart disease,” said Paul Dudley White, one of six cardiologists who met on June 10, 1924 and founded the American Heart Association.

So much has happened since then. In 1957, the first pacemaker was implanted. In 1960, the first successful artificial heart valve replacement was performed. In 1961, American Heart Association funded research showed how CPR can save lives after cardiac arrest. In 2008, research funded by the American Heart Association showed that uninterrupted, high-quality chest compressions–without mouth-to-mouth respiration–can be used for adults needing CPR.

Still, so many challenges remain. One is congestive heart failure. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, tiredness, swelling of legs and ankles, weight gain, and a need to urinate more often. There is no cure, but medications can help lower blood pressure, relax blood vessels, and make the heart beat stronger. Lifestyle changes—like not smoking—can help, too.

What causes congestive heart failure? The following list appears at

- Diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Heart valve disease
- Congenital heart defects
- Coronary heart disease
- Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation
- Thyroid disease
- HIV and AIDS
- Alcohol or drug abuse

The American Heart Association has funded more than $3.5 billion in heart disease and stroke research during the past sixty-five years. Current fundraising events include Heart Walks, Wear Red Days, and Heart Balls.

If you have a family member who needs private duty nursing, call American Home Health at (630) 236-3501. The agency can provide round-the-clock nursing care by Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). Our service area covers fifteen counties in Northern Illinois including Cook, Lake, McHenry, Boone, Winnebago, Ogle, Lee, DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, LaSalle, Grundy, Will, and Kankakee. American Home Health is licensed by the State of Illinois and accredited by the Joint Commission. For further information, go to, or call (630) 236-3501.

—By Karen Centowski

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