Prevention & Early Signs
It’s February and love is in the air. Can you feel that thump, thump in your heart for your special someone? Valentines, Chocolates, candlelit dinners, and sweet poems. February also brings National Heart Awareness month. Let’s first look at steps to prevent heart disease and second discuss early signs of heart disease.
Prevention is Ideal
I encourage patients to focus on modifiable risk factors. What is a modifiable risk factor? Something we can change with effort and work. Items such as diet, weight management, stress levels, physical movement, environment, and optimizing pertinent medical risk factors are a few.
Diet: What is the best diet? Food that delivers high levels of nutrients, tastes good and has lower calories. Aim for colorful, natural, single ingredient foods. Food such as chicken, broccoli, avocado, oatmeal, raspberries, sweet potatoes, spinach. Nutrients, fiber, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids in these foods can help with weight management, cholesterol levels and inflammatory markers.
Weight management: This is a problem in America. Look at your weight as something that could lengthen your life or shorten it.
A balanced approach with goal setting, nutrition guidelines, activity minimums and accountability are key. Ask yourself “Why do I want to lose weight?” This helps formulate a plan. Ask your doctor for some help too!
Stress levels and environment: Stress is a natural part of life. However, stress hormones can be detrimental to the cardiovascular system. Learning how to recognize stress, minimize it and seek help when it’s too high is important. Exercise, prayer, meditation, gratitude, counseling, and medication are tools to help with this. Being aware of our environment is key. If you have control of leaving or taking a break from a stressful environment, then take the opportunity.
Movement: Strive for 150minutes a week of physical activity outside of your normal nine to five. Long walks, low impact cardio, resistance exercises such as body weight exercises, free weights, and resistance bands. Look for fun activities that allow for social interaction: golfing, skiing, skating, pickle ball, group fitness, frisbee golf are all great options to get moving.
Medical risk factors: Obesity, Diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, highly processed diet, extreme stress levels, heavy alcohol use, strong genetic risk. Use the above suggestions with the guidance of your doctor to optimize treating these risks. Routine physicals, screening labs for diabetes, cholesterol and organ function, balanced diet, consistent movement, stress relief tactics will help prolong your life.
Now that you know a few preventative strategies let’s look for warning signs for cardiovascular disease. The hearts’ goal is to pump nutrient rich blood all over the body. Simply put, the pump has to squeeze hard enough, fast enough and through pipes (blood vessels) that are not damaged. If there is a problem in this process people need to recognize symptoms.
If the heart is not pumping hard enough, fast enough or efficient enough, then patients may experience leg swelling, fatigue, difficulty breathing, cough, dizziness, fainting spells, weakness and erratic blood pressure readings or heart rates.
If the heart is pumping too hard or too fast then the patient can experience headaches, shortness of breath, palpitations, vision problems or fainting spell. If blood vessels are blocked or narrowed, then symptoms vary depending on where the narrowing occurs.
If an issue is in the heart, chest pain or angina could develop as a warning sign of a heart attack, while narrowing in the legs can result in leg pain, cold feet, swelling and/or the development of chronic wound. Narrowing in the neck vessels can result in dizziness, confusion, and stroke like symptoms.
I encourage you to take aggressive action using the prevention tactics outlined above. Also, if you are experiencing any of the warning signs, don’t hesitate to set up an appointment with your primary care provider or any of our great Lakeview Clinic providers. Happy Heart Month!!!