Don't tinker around with your ticker

Tick tock, time to get that heart unblocked.

Cardiovascular disease affects millions of Americans each year. You can help prevent the number-one killer of American men and women by proactively changing your way of life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if a family member has been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, you are likely at risk for the same medical condition. Monitor these health habits and reduce your risk of developing the disease.

Diet: Watch what you eat. High levels of sodium and fat hide in your favorite meals and treats. Add more fresh greens and fruits as snacks.

Exercise: Add a walking or running routine to your schedule. Adults need at least two and a half hours of various physical activity a week. Speak with your doctor about the best exercise routine for you.

Tobacco use: Tobacco products take a toll on your health, no matter what age you are. Every cigarette you smoke makes you more susceptible to heart disease.

Blood pressure and cholesterol: Don't forget your yearly physical. Routine exams log health history of blood pressure and cholesterol levels, helping your doctor effectively track signs of heart conditions.

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Heart Disease FAQs

Heart failure is a clinical syndrome that usually relates to when the heart’s pumping chamber is weakened. In other terms, it’s called congestive heart failure. Some of the common symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath, mainly when you exert yourself. You may also feel short of breath when you lay flat – that’s something called orthopnea.
  • Other patients may experience symptoms when they start gasping for air in the middle of the night. That’s something called paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, or shortness of breath at night. That’s similar to the shortness of breath you have laying down.
  • Swelling, or edema of the lower extremities.
  • A decline in your exercise tolerance. You just can’t do what you used to do. As you try to exert yourself, the heart can’t pump enough blood and you feel very fatigued and have a decline in your exercise tolerance.

That’s what we call palpitations. Patients describe this in different terms. Some may say it’s fluttering, flip-flopping in their chest or racing. That may be a benign phenomenon.

The heart can have extra heart beats. That can be from the lower chamber, which is called premature ventricular contractions. It may also be from the upper chamber, which is called premature atrial contractions.

If it’s lasting a few seconds, and you don’t have any other symptoms, that’s generally a benign phenomenon. Usually the first time this happens, however, you want to get evaluated by a heart doctor to make sure it’s not anything more serious.

Symptoms to be concerned about include:

Anytime the heart is fluttering for a longer period of time.

  • If it’s sustained and lasting for 1 minute or longer.

If you have associated symptoms, such as:

  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling like you’re going to faint
  • Shortness of breath
  • Having chest pain when it occurs

Maximum heart rate is 220 beats per minute minus your age. Based on that formula, when we do a stress test, we usually try to achieve 85% of that maximum heart rate to try to induce any blockage or problem in the heart.

When you’re trying to exercise, it depends on what your goals are:

  • If you’re trying to exercise for weight loss and reduce fat, you want to work out longer but a heart rate of 50-60% of the target heart rate.
  • If you’re going for cardiovascular fitness overall, of if you’re training for a marathon or something similar, you want to have higher intensity exercise for a shorter time. In that case, you want to push your heart rate heart to about 70-80% of the target heart rate.

Men and women often show different signs. Men typically will feel like an elephant is sitting on their chest with pain that also goes into the neck and down the left arm. It is often accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, and nausea, overwhelming fatigue and in some cases a sense of doom.

Women may experience the above as well, however, they are more likely to feel like they have a bad case of the flu with severe fatigue, abdominal discomfort or heartburn, jaw pain, trouble sleeping and/or anxiety.

Of those surveyed, 44 percent thought there were vitamins that can lower cholesterol and 61 percent believed that vitamins and supplements help prevent heart disease. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Fish oil supplements help to lower triglyceride levels but have not been found to prevent heart disease or heart failure. Supplements such as Resveratrol and grape seed extract may help in the prevention of heart disease in theory, but there is no scientific evidence in humans that they do. Vitamins and supplements are expensive. Your money may be better spent on a gym membership – exercise can help keep your ticker strong and healthy and, if you’re carrying some extra pounds, help you lose them.

Salt works on the kidneys, causing your body to hold on to more water. This increases the volume of fluid and pressure in the blood vessels. Over time the blood vessels become thickened, stiff and narrowed, requiring even more power to push the blood through them – and blood pressure goes up.

Unfortunately, the majority of Americans have no idea where salt is hiding. Most of us are unaware of the fact that bread has more salt than cheese. Soup is considered a healthy meal. However, many canned or instant soups have extremely high salt contents. Bottled salad dressings are another source of high levels of salt. The USDA recommends that we eat less than 2400 mgs of sodium (one teaspoon of salt) per day. That is why label reading is a must.

Despite that fact that 60 percent of Americans think that there is a gene that causes heart disease, scientists have not found one yet. However, there is a hereditary component to heart disease risk. If you have a first-degree relative who had a heart attack that does up your risk. It does not mean you will have a heart attack.

The best way to prevent heart disease is to maintain a normal blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, avoid becoming overweight or obese, exercise and eat a heart-healthy, Mediterranean-style diet. If you smoke, quit, and learn healthy ways to manage stress. Meet with your doctor on a regular basis so that you can make sure you maintain optimum health and manage your risks.


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