We at Mercy Cardiology and KTIV are very excited to start these series on heart health. The main purpose of these series is to inform the audience about heart health since we believe that people with heart condition and their loved ones will have better outcome and adherence to the recommended treatment if they have a better understanding and knowledge of their condition. The introduction of these series is about general health habits.
The question many may ask themselves is, after not paying attention to my heart and general health, is heart disease reversible?
The short answer is YES majority of the time. Of course there are situations and conditions where the disease is not reversible. The main question is, does one need a heart of an 18 years old person to live a normal life. And the answer is NO. So even if there is some damage to the heart structures such as the coronary arteries, the heart valves or the heart muscle, many people continue to do well once they start to get the appropriate treatment and change their lifestyle and habits to a healthier one. As you can see it requires both the appropriate treatment from the physician side as well as the change in the lifestyle from the patient's side. The bottom line is that it is your responsibility to get back on track and help yourselves toward a healthier and longer life.
How do I figure out how bad or how good my heart condition is?
There are many different ways to deal with this question. The easiest one is to consult with your family physician if you have concerns about your health and specially if you are having symptoms that make you think there may be something wrong with your heart. The concern can come be due to many different reasons. Some may be warranted and some may not be. Often people get concerned about their health when a close friend or family member experiences a serious medical condition or death. The most important thing to remember is, if you are experiencing occasional symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath with activity, it needs to be addressed with your family physician
sooner than later and preferably as soon as possible before it is too late. For everybody else who are not having symptoms and are just concerned, besides consulting with you physician, the other services available are general screening tools such as the blood pressure monitor at the local grocery store. Many local grocery stores these days provide health screening services such as blood pressure and cholesterol measurement for minimal price in their pharmacy section. And finally many hospitals in your local area have monthly health screening programs where they measure blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, ankle brachial index, carotid artery scanning, abdominal aorta scanning, and an electrocardiogram. Many of these measures will guide you to understand if there is something wrong that may need more attention. So you will have something to work on and improve for example your blood pressure or cholesterol, instead of general wage concern and fear with no direction.
Is it too late to start exercising if I know , I have had an unhealthy lifestyle?
The short answer is NO, it is never too late to start a healthy lifestyle regardless of your condition. What needs to be done however and how to get there is dependent on your baseline condition. For a relatively young person (30's-40's) who has no symptoms and just feel that it is time to start exercising and being more healthy, they can just go ahead and do that. For a slightly older person (50 plus) and specially for people at any age with known risk factors such as known diabetes, high blood pressure with or without medication, it is possible that they may need to discuss their plans about starting exercise with their physician. Sometimes doing some kind of exercise stress test under controlled environment in the doctors office will confirm that starting an exercise program is safe for you and you will learn the limits that you can push yourself without being afraid of hurting yourself.
What is the minimum amount exercise needed to make an impact on my heart?
Many believe that they may need to join a gym and spend hours there to become healthier. The truth is studies have shown that walking at brisk pace (3 miles per hour or faster) for 30 minutes or more, 3 times or more weekly will significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. What one may need to remember is walking 30 minutes 3 times weekly is not a lot of exercise but the minimum amount of exercise that may make a difference. If you are an otherwise healthy in your 30's to 50's, walking 30 minutes 3 times weekly is just too little exercise. The walking one may be doing at work does not count.
How do start to eat healthier?
This is a very big question and I am hoping we at some point will dedicate entire month to this topic. There are libraries of books written about this topic and many different opinions and styles which is beyond my level of expertise. I will however share with you some general ideas. Most dietary experts believe that the major source of weight gain is the excess amount of carbohydrates in our diet. That includes bread, rice, potato, cakes, and sweets. So if you are a big lover of any of these items, by cutting down the amount of carbohydrates per day by 50-70% and replacing it vegetables, fruits, you would get a long way. This would just be the simple first step. For more please tune in to our next session at KTIV channel 4.
Ramin Artang MD