Between golf and football, there’s a lot going on around the Valley in February. As a health care professional, Valentine’s Day is near and dear to my heart. Let’s consider what we can do to be with our sweethearts for many Valentine’s Days to come.
February is a good time to remind ourselves that while heart disease is still the leading cause of death in American men and women, it can be managed and, in some cases, prevented altogether.
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, which is why annual health checkups and screenings are so important.
The most common forms of heart disease are coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, heart valve disease and heart failure.
Coronary artery disease is a buildup of plaque in the arteries that can decrease blood supply to the heart that may lead to a heart attack. The most common symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain/pressure or pain that occurs in the shoulders, arms, back, jaw, or it may also present like indigestion. The pain may get worse with activity and decrease at rest.
Arrhythmias, also known as atrial fibrillation (Afib) or irregular heartbeat, are abnormal heart rhythms that occur when the electrical impulses in the heart are not working correctly. Common symptoms may include fluttering in the chest, sweating, fatigue and dizziness.
Heart valve disease is when one of the valves is not working correctly. Symptoms can include shortness of breath with activity, fatigue, swelling in the legs/feet, dizziness or chest pain, and a heart murmur is typically heard. Treatment options for valvular disease include minimally invasive transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) or open-heart surgery.
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. This can often be treated with medication or cardiac devices.
Healthy lifestyle choices can make a world of difference for healthy hearts. Stay active and try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week. Follow a healthy diet with more fruits and vegetables and less fast or processed foods, 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 treatment options for heart disease that not only allow patients to live longer, but also improve their quality of life.
Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you’re experiencing symptoms described above. Regular checkups with your doctor can help identify your risks and, if needed, treatment for heart disease. Being proactive about your health can help you enjoy time with your valentine year after year.
Abrazo Arrowhead Campus is hosting a free cardiovascular screening event on Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the hospital lobby. We hope to see you there!
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Tammy Querrey, MSN, RN, ACNP-BC, is director of clinical cardiovascular care for Abrazo Health. For more information about Abrazo Health hospitals, take a free heart health risk assessment or to find a doctor, visit abrazohealth.com.