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Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022


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Raising awareness of cardiovascular disease

February is recognized as American Heart Month to raise public awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Its purpose is to convey the importance of understanding the signs and symptoms and learning how to prevent heart disease in the first place. This year’s Heart Month is no different, especially now with cardiovascular patients among those at greatest risk of complications from COVID-19.

Despite a better understanding of CVD risks and prevention efforts, doctors see a worsening trend in CVD risk mitigation in the United States. As the leading cause of death among men and women, one person dies of heart disease about every 36 seconds in the U.S. The good news is that it is largely preventable. As we continue into this new year with resolutions, there is much room for improvement in prevention and understanding how to minimize risk factors.

While some contributors, such as family genetics, cannot be controlled, there are key steps that we can all take to improve our chances against heart disease.

Know Your Numbers

You’ve probably heard this phrase before, but what exactly does it mean? Knowing your numbers means regularly monitoring your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar level and body mass index (BMI). Scientific data shows that these are indicative of overall health, especially as it relates to your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

If your numbers aren’t within an ideal range, your doctor will help create a plan that may include lifestyle modifications, medication or both. Equally important to knowing your numbers is ensuring that they remain managed and in a healthy range.

Know Your Family History

While family history isn’t something we can change, being aware of genetic health conditions is very important. Not only will it cue you in on certain areas of your health of which you should remain aware, but it will also allow your physicians to more effectively assess your risk and better manage your health.

Suppose a family member is diagnosed with heart disease or a heart disorder. In that case, other family members are encouraged to screen for risk factors and earlystage disease that may not yet be symptomatic.

Your physician may also recommend more frequent screenings related to your specific genetic predisposition.

Manage Controllable Risk Factors

One of the best things you can do for your heart is to stop smoking or using smokeless tobacco. No matter how long or how much you’ve smoked, the risk of heart disease begins to drop as soon as you quit.

Additionally, make sure you’re getting daily physical activity. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. You can spread it out during the week.

Finally, strive to maintain a heart-healthy diet, including vegetables, fruits, beans, lean meats and fish, whole grains and healthy fats. Try to limit your intake of salt, sugar, processed carbohydrates, alcohol and saturated fats.

Maintain Doctor Visits

Several early indicators of heart disease are often silent without medical testing. Regular screenings allow your doctor to discover conditions in their earliest and most treatable stages. The following screening tests are usually used in measuring and managing the risk for cardiovascular disease:

• Blood pressure

• Fasting lipid profile (cholesterol)

• Body weight

• Blood glucose

• Exercise stress test

• Echocardiogram

• Coronary calcium scoring

Listen To Your Body

Our bodies are incredibly insightful and often tell us when something isn’t quite right. Schedule an appointment with your physician immediately if you notice a sudden onset of any of the following symptoms:

• Chest pain

• Shortness of breath with activity or when lying down

• Fatigue or weakness

• Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet

• Rapid or irregular heartbeat

• Reduced ability to exercise

• Rapid weight gain

Call 911 or seek emergency medical help if you experience any of the following:

• Chest pain, tightness, pressure or discomfort

• Shortness of breath

• Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back

• Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms

It’s easy to feel uncomfortable or even afraid about heart health, but it helps to remember that knowledge is power. Understanding your risk means that you can protect yourself and those you love. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to begin taking a stand against heart disease, one small step at a time.

Dr. Pavan Katikaneni is an interventional cardiologist practicing at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists in Shreveport, La. He is distinguished by multispecialty board certifications. Learn more and schedule an appointment by calling 318-798-9400 or visiting www.acsdoctors.com.


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