We all know the standard New Year’s resolutions – lose weight, start an exercise program, eat healthier, quit smoking, so on and so forth. But here’s a resolution you probably don’t hear too often, that combines all those goals into one – Get Heart Healthy. If you only made one resolution for the rest of your life, it just might be the most important one you could make. But just what does “heart healthy” mean? It’s a term that’s both common and complex, so we’ve compiled helpful advice from some of the area’s foremost experts to explain just what heart health really entails.
Women & Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death for American women, yet it’s still seen by many as a male problem. While female-specific conditions such as breast cancer tend to get the lion’s share of attention, it’s cardiovascular disease that poses a far greater risk to female health. Post-menopausal women have an equal risk of heart attack as men. However, women die from heart attacks more often than men, which is why awareness of female cardiovascular disease is such an issue.
“I can’t say it enough, prevention is always better than cure. See your primary care physician for regular checkups to monitor your health regardless of how you feel. Many conditions that impact heart health are symptom-free until it’s too late. Catching problems early and addressing them before damage is done is the key to a healthy heart.”
Surender Sandella, MD
Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist
Cardiovascular Associates of Southern Indiana
“The future of heart surgery is very promising; minimally invasive techniques are becoming more common for procedures that were once very high-risk. Patients have more options than ever to treat their conditions.”
Brent Keeling, MD
University Cardiothoracic Surgical Associates
Board certified Interventional Cardiologist Surender Sandella, MD, explained why. “Women perceive pain differently than men, resulting in atypical heart attack symptoms. While a man having a heart attack might complain of chest pain, which is almost universally recognized as a sign of heart attack, many women will interpret their discomfort as gas or indigestion. As a result, they tend to come to the ER later, causing irreversible damage in the mean time. Socially, women also tend to put themselves last, not acknowledging the urgent nature of their condition until it is sometimes too late.”
High Blood Pressure: a Silent Killer
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and remains high for a long period of time, it becomes known as high blood pressure, or hypertension, and can lead to a host of health problems, including cardiovascular disease and stroke. As Dr. Sandella noted, “high blood pressure is a silent killer because it does not produce noticeable symptoms until it has caused significant damage to the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and many other parts of the body. In fact, studies show that one in three American adults have high blood pressure, many of whom have no idea. However, if caught early, high blood pressure is very easily treated. This is why it’s so important to visit your primary care physician for regular checkups and monitor your blood pressure regardless of good or bad overall health. As I like to tell my patients, ‘prevention is better than cure.’”
Diabetes and the Heart: Know Your Risk
People with diabetes have a higher-than average risk of developing cardiovascular disease and are nearly twice as likely to die from the condition than those without diabetes. Why is this? Because, as the body is exposed to high levels of blood sugar over time, cardiovascular health declines in many ways,including developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, peripheral artery disease and many other conditions.
However, the glass is by no means half empty for patients with diabetes. “The best way to fight a disease is to know about it,” explained Dr. Sandella. “Having diabetes is a very significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, but risk factors are just that; risks. They can be lessened with efforts to control them, including eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, not smoking, and maintaining tight control of blood sugar, hypertension and cholesterol levels.”
Smoking: A Sure Bet for Cardiovascular Disease
If you knew without a doubt that something you were doing was going to cause irreparable damage to your body’s most important organ, you would stop doing it, right? Smokers, here’s your reality check: smoking causes cardiovascular disease. Cardiothoracic Surgeon Brent Keeling, MD, explained why. “Smokers tend to focus more on how their habit negatively affects their lungs than on how it affects their heart. But the reality is that smoking and cardiovascular disease go hand-in-hand. Smoke actually stresses the artery walls, resulting in narrowed arteries that are more likely to develop blockage. All of this results in a higher incidence of heart attacks, blood clots and cardiovascular conditions among smokers. This often results in the need for stents to be placed in arteries for greater blood flow, or even bypass surgery for those that are severely damaged. Patients who continue to smoke after these procedures then face an increased risk of requiring repeat interventions, since their arteries will continue to deteriorate at higher rates than non-smokers. If there’s one thing that a smoker can do to improve their cardiovascular health, it’s to quit smoking immediately.”
Tips for Lowering Blood Pressure
Aside from medications that your physician may prescribe, you can follow these simple, common sense strategies to lower blood pressure:
- Follow a healthy diet that is low in fat, cholesterol and sodium, while being high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Engage in routine physical activity, even as little as 30 minutes of walking each day can make an enormous difference in your blood pressure.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Aim to achieve a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or below.
- Quit smoking immediately.
- Manage stress with calming activities such as reading a book, practicing yoga or meditation. Using alcohol as a stress reliever is not a heart healthy approach.
Know Your Numbers
Follow this simple chart to determine whether your blood pressure numbers deserve further attention.
Free “Heart Healthy Dining Out” Event Tuesday, February 28, 6 pm Baptist Health Floyd Paris Health Education Center
In honor of heart health awareness month, join board certified Interventional Cardiologist Surender Sandella, MD, and a registered dietitian for an informative presentation on how to dine out with heart health in mind. A large selection of area restaurants will be on hand to offer free samples of heart healthy menu items following the presentation. Heart health experts will also host informative booths and great door prizes will be given away. Attendance is limited, so register early by calling 1-800-4-SOURCE or by visiting www.baptisthealthfloyd.com/events. Registration deadline is Wednesday, February 22.
Free “Take 2 for Heart & Stroke” Screenings
One-on-one screening with a cardiac nurse, offering full lipid cholesterol panel, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index. Registration required. Call 1-800-4-SOURCE (1-800-476-8723) to register.
Stroke & Aneurysm Vascular Screenings
Includes non-invasive screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, Peripheral Artery Disease and Carotid Artery Disease. The cost is $49 for all three. For an appointment, call 1-800-4-SOURCE (1-800-476-8723).
Free Blood Pressure Screenings
Offered from 1:30 – 3 pm every other Friday in the hospital main lobby. January 20, February 3, 17, March 2, 16 and 30