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What Cardiologists Want You to Know About Heart Disease

02-23-2016

What Cardiologists Want You to Know About Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Gaston County, and it’s responsible for 1 in every 4 American deaths. While heart disease can take many forms, the most common is coronary artery disease, which leads to heart attacks. According to CaroMont cardiologist Dr. Mark Thompson, there are some surprisingly simple ways to make your heart healthier.

  • Walk!
    You don’t have to hit the gym and push yourself to exhaustion to stay in shape. Brisk walking may be the best exercise to lower your risk of heart disease. Aim for 40 minutes on 3-4 days per week. Try breaking it up – 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch, 20 minutes in the evening. It’s the total exercise time that really counts, not the uninterrupted duration.
  • Look before you eat!
    Choose fruits and vegetables. They are naturally low in fat and high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Reduce your intake of red meats and dairy products. Nutrition experts and cardiologists agree that healthy fats such as nuts, avocados and some oils are incredibly beneficial for heart health, whereas high-carb diets, added sugars and trans-fats are the true perpetrators behind heart disease.
  • Know your number!

Every adult over age 20 should have a cholesterol check, with a recheck every 5 years thereafter. Your total cholesterol should be less than 200, and your LDL (bad) cholesterol should be at least less than 130, ideally less than 100. Get your levels tested and keep them under control.

  • Stop smoking now!

The risk of heart attack starts decreasing within 24 hours of quitting smoking, and within 2 years approaches the risk of a non-smoker. Smell, taste, and smoker’s cough all improve within weeks of quitting.

Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack—a medical event that can happen at any age, often as the result of coronary artery disease. Many first-time victims of heart attacks don’t know the symptoms, says Dr. Thompson. Even more confusing, symptoms are different for men and women. Chest pain or discomfort; shortness of breath, pain in the jaw, neck or back; and weakness and light-headedness are all symptoms of a heart attack, but women are more likely to experience nausea, indigestion and shoulder pain.

Many instances of heart disease can be delayed or prevented through altering unhealthy habits and behaviors, like undue stress or poor diet choices. Knowing what puts you at risk can help you develop a plan for long-term heart health. Talk to your doctor to learn more about your risk.