Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is a broad term that can refer to different types of heart issues. A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to a section of heart muscle is blocked. Heart failure means that the heart isn’t pumping as well as it should. Heart rhythm disorders involve a defect in the heart’s electrical system.
Lutheran Medical Center has experts and advanced resources to treat any type of heart disease. But when it comes to managing your personal heart disease risk factors, you are your own best advocate.
MANAGE WHAT YOU CAN
“There are some risk factors, such as genetics, that you can’t control,” says Jody Kleinman, MD, a cardiologist and Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Lutheran. “But knowing your family history, especially if your parents were diagnosed with heart issues at a young age, should make you more aware and proactive about controlling what you can.”
That includes not smoking, eating a healthy diet low in saturated fats and high in fruits and vegetables and exercising at a moderate aerobic intensity for at least 30 minutes, five days a week.
Lifestyle changes can go a long way, but keep in mind that if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or some other chronic condition, you may need medication, as well.
“A healthy diet can bring cholesterol down about 15 percent, but cholesterol-lowering medications called statins will lower those levels by 50 percent,” says Scott Valent, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Lutheran. “And if you have a family history of heart disease along with high cholesterol, that might be critical.”
HERE FOR YOU IN AN EMERGENCY
As an interventional cardiologist, Dr. Valent leads the heart-attack treatment team, unblocking clogged arteries via angioplasty, which uses a balloon-tipped catheter threaded into a blood vessel to clear the obstruction. He notes that Lutheran was the first private hospital in the Denver area to offer a primary angioplasty program nearly 20 years ago. Today, the average time from the moment the patient arrives to the moment the artery is cleared is under 60 minutes, well under the national recommendation of 90 minutes. The faster the treatment, the less heart muscle is damaged.
When it comes to effective heart attack care, here again, you are your own best advocate. It’s critical to know the signs of a heart attack, particularly sudden, unexplained shortness of breath or a tightening or pressure in the chest, jaw or across the shoulders or back. Less common symptoms include overwhelming fatigue or unexplained arm pain. “If you are at high risk, you should be particularly aware of symptoms like these, even if they seem to dissipate,” Dr. Kleinman says.
Dr. Valent adds that the best course of action if you think you’re having a heart attack is to call 911. “Emergency medical personnel are equipped to diagnose and stabilize heart attack victims if symptoms worsen,” he says. “Also, you’ll receive faster treatment if you’re brought in via ambulance, because the cardiac team will be ready and waiting.”