Learn what you can. Do what you can.
Every day, heart patients suffer the consequences of choices they make in their lives and the damaging effects our modern day lifestyle can have on their health. We’d like to do all we can to interrupt the harmful cycle of cause and effect to either avoid cardiac problems before they get started or help reverse some of the damage if heart disease has already gained a foothold in
Be on the lookout
Heart disease is sneaky. Its symptoms can look like a hundred other things. Still, we want you to call or come to ICE if you exhibit any of the following. Pain in the chest is the easy one. Sometimes it is described as burning, fullness, pressure, or like “an elephant sitting on my chest.” Medically, the condition is called angina and it can range from mild discomfort—no dramatics—to a severe squeezing pain or ache. Don’t try to self-diagnose. Don’t chalk it up to heartburn or “the fish I had last night.” We know you don’t want it to be a heart attack. We don’t either. But don’t wait, hoping against hope. Call 9-1-1 or the Institute immediately. The first hour after a cardiac event is optimum for us to administer medical intervention—clot buster drugs or angioplasty—that can head off permanent heart damage.
Many women patients thought only men suffered heart attacks until they experienced a pain in their arm or shoulder, abdomen or anywhere but their chest. Truth is, woman have heart attacks, too. However, their symptoms are often more subtle. Women are more likely to feel faint, dizzy, and experience nausea or shortness of breath. They may have a persistent headache or backache. A radiating ache in the jaw is very common—and often self-diagnosed as a bad tooth. Be on the lookout for these. Over half of the deaths from heart disease occur in women — six times the number that will succumb to breast cancer.
We want to help
Don’t wait for symptoms to appear. No symptoms is no guarantee of a healthy heart. Half of the people who will experience a “heart event” this year will have no prior symptoms. That’s why the American Heart Association recommends that regular cardiovascular screening tests begin at age 20! It’s better to know where you stand before symptoms begin. After that, your physicians can determine the frequency of follow-up exams based upon what risk factors—cholesterol, family history, etc.
Want to take a more active role in your heart health?
Exercise is a great place to start. Your physician can tailor an exercise plan designed to your exact fitness level and capabilities. They’ll monitor your progress and celebrate with you when you reach your fitness
Eat right. Rather than accept the oft-repeated advice to simply eat a low-fat, low-carb diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, let your physician advise you. They will help create a diet you can actually live with that accounts for your own tastes and your own weight loss expectations. Sleep well. There is ample evidence that poor sleep patterns can result in a host of heart ailments. Between seven or eight hours is about right. Below five is harmful. So is sleeping too much. Reduce your stress levels. That is easier said than done sometimes, especially in today’s world. But your physician can help you find active ways to keep stress under control, from medication to meditation and other stress control techniques. By the way, exercise is a powerful stress reliever—with a two-for-one benefit! Eat fish—at least two servings a week. Fatty fish—like salmon— are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to lower triglycerides, reduce plaque in arteries, and even reduce heart arrhythmias. Floss! Many patients hearts have been compromised by bacteria—the same kind that causes gingivitis. Healthy gums will reduce the incidence of harmful bacteria that can cause inflammation, which can harm your heart.
Take aspirin. Consult with your physician first before beginning any aspirin regimen. But usually, one regular or two baby aspirin a day is the amount prescribed to our patients to realize the maximum benefit. A healthy heart is a product of what you can do for yourself. So, take your heart in your hands. Take an active role in the process. You’ll feel better, look better, and live a more enjoyable life.