Be Prepared To "Take Action" For Your Heart Health
When it comes to heart health, it always pays to have a plan of action.
February is National Heart Month, and for all residents of this region, there is a genuine need for improvement. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Kentucky ranks sixth in the nation for deaths related to heart disease. Kentucky also ranks eighth-highest in deaths caused by stroke and ties for seventh in deaths from diabetes, both of which have strong connections to heart disease.
These are people we know and care about, family members, friends and neighbors. If we do not act now, it will continue with the next generation. Unfortunately, we cannot cure heart disease. We can treat and manage it better than ever before, thanks to advances in available therapies, treatments and procedures. But if there is to be a real improvement to the heart health of people in this area, we have to start with younger generations.
Improve Your Odds
I often compare heart health to card games where you must sometimes get rid of cards to improve your chances of winning. There are certain factors that are like those “junk” cards, and you have to get rid of them. If you have any of the following risk factors, you should be looking for ways to discard them right away:
Many of these factors are closely related to the others. Smoking increases the risk of high blood pressure. Diabetes and obesity are strongly related, and have major impacts on blood pressure and cholesterol also. When you have more than one of these risk factors, they can add up. That’s a burden that causes strain and ultimately will irreparably damage your heart.
What can you do to protect your heart? If you have any one of the above risk factors, get rid of them! Quit smoking. Exercise more and manage your weight. Control your diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol, or prevent them from getting out of hand altogether. These are all critical steps to good heart health.
Do you have a primary care provider? If you don’t, you need to get one. All of the problems listed as risk factors above are things that your provider can detect early or help you address. They are as simple as blood pressure checks, blood tests and a moment on a scale, allowing your provider to pinpoint if you do have any of those risk factors.
A primary care provider doesn’t just provide medical attention. They also can provide guidance and help to you along the way. Owensboro Health’s One Health medical group, which I am a part of, is specifically designed to work on the principle that the best outcomes in medicine come from a team approach. Our team is comprised of experts who can equip you with the tools you need.
Need help quitting smoking or managing your diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol? Your primary care provider can provide advice and resources that will lead to a successful outcome. Primary care providers can also help refer you to other specialists, such as cardiologists like myself, nutritionists and dietitians, or exercise physiologists.
Are you having trouble with activities that were easy as little as six months ago? Do you get winded or short of breath during every-day happenings? These are all subtle symptoms of heart disease, and you should make an appointment with a provider as soon as possible.
What about recognizing the signs of a heart attack? The “Hollywood heart attack,” with crushing chest pain, is the one everyone seems to know. But there are the other signs to watch for, and the symptoms are not always the same for men and women.
Here are the signs to watch for:
- Chest discomfort
- Discomfort elsewhere in the body (back, neck, jaw, stomach or in one or both arms – women are more likely to experience jaw, neck or back pain in connection with a heart attack)
- Shortness of breath or fatigue (More common in women)
- Nausea, vomiting or lightheadedness (More common in women)
If you experience any of those symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. Do not wait for it to go away or get better on its own. Time is precious with heart attacks, and the sooner you get help, the more likely it is that you can minimize heart damage and have a good outcome.
For more information or to request an appointment with a provider in Owensboro Health’s One Health medical group, call 844-44-MY-ONE (844-446-9663).
This story originally ran January 28, 2016 in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.