Your heart may belong to your Valentine, but it’s truly yours to keep healthy. Each year during National Heart Month, health professionals remind Americans that heart disease is the number one killer of men and women, yet it can be managed, and in some cases, prevented altogether.
The heart is a muscular organ that is vital in pumping oxygen-rich blood and nutrients throughout the body. When the heart cannot perform this function properly people may begin experiencing a variety of symptoms.
What does the term ‘Heart Disease’ really mean, are you at risk, and how can you help prevent it? The most common forms of heart disease are: heart failure, heart valve disease, coronary artery disease, and arrhythmias.
Heart failure is when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body. People may experience shortness of breath with activity, swelling in the legs, rapid weight gain, and increased fatigue, these are often dismissed as being age related or out of shape.
Heart valve disease is when one of the valves in the heart is not working correctly.
The symptoms are similar to heart failure and can include, shortness of breath with activity, fatigue, swelling in the legs/feet, dizziness, or chest pain. There have been many advancements in treatment options for valvular disease. An example of this is the transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR.
This is a minimally invasive alternative to open-heart surgery where the aortic valve is able to be replaced through the arteries in the leg instead of open heart surgery, which means decreased hospital stays and a much faster recovery time.
Coronary artery disease which is build-up of plaque in the arteries that can decrease the blood supply to the heart, and may lead to a heart attack. The most common symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain/pressure, or pain that occur in the shoulders, arms, back, jaw, or it may also present like indigestion.
The pain may get worse with activity and decrease at rest. Often times women do not experience the classic signs and symptoms of a heart attack, which is why annual health screenings are so important.
Arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms occur when the electrical impulses in the heart are not working correctly. Common symptoms may include fluttering in the chest, sweating, fatigue, and dizziness.
The traditional risk factors for heart disease — such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity — affect women and men equally. It’s an equal opportunity condition.
Making healthy lifestyle choices can make a world of difference. Stay active and keep your body moving, try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days per week.
Follow a healthy diet, eat more fruits and vegetables, avoid fast or processed food, maintain a healthy weight, try to manage your stress, quit smoking, and get your regular health screening and physicals.
The good news is that there are many new treatment options for heart disease that not only allow patients to live longer but also improve their quality of life.
Abrazo Health recently became the exclusive provider of the AngioScreen heart attack and stroke risk assessment program in Maricopa County. This portable screening is available for employer and community health fairs, and screening events are scheduled monthly in Abrazo hospitals across the Valley.
The low-cost screening can help identify potential circulatory problems such as peripheral artery disease, a narrowing of arteries that can lead to coronary artery disease, heart attack or stroke. A nurse provides a brief consultation to explain the results, which participants are encouraged to share with their personal physician for follow up.
Having even one of the risk factors for heart disease can be dangerous. But having multiple risks is even more serious because risk factors tend to intensify the effects of others and increase your chances of developing a heart condition.
Don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 if you’re experiencing symptoms that seem to be life-threatening. Regular check-ups with your doctor can help identify risks and treatment for heart disease. Being proactive about your health can help you enjoy time with your Valentine year after year.
Katrina Ostwald, R.N., is structural heart nurse navigator at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus. Visit AbrazoHealth.com.