February is American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, the perfect time to be reminded to take care of your heart. "Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women," says Gerald Sotsky, M.D., Chair of Cardiac Services, Valley Medical Group. "But there is good news," he says, "heart disease is largely preventable and controllable."

Heart health can be easier to achieve than you might think. It doesn't require hours of grueling exercise or giving up all of your favorite foods. A few simple lifestyle changes can make all the difference. Here are some tips to get you on your way:
•Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day on most days of the week. This can be as simple as taking a daily walk.
•Maintain a healthy weight.
•Quit or don't start smoking.
•Eat a diet that's low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.

It's equally important to be alert to the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, which can include:
•uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest;
•pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach;
•shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort;
•nausea, lightheadedness, or breaking out in a cold sweat; and
•chest pain or discomfort.

If you have any of these signs call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

Symptoms of a heart attack in women can be less distinctive than they tend to be in men. "Both men and women can experience the typical chest pain, pressure or discomfort, but women are somewhat more likely than men to experience more subtle symptoms, such as shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, or extreme fatigue," says cardiologist Benita Burke, M.D., Medical Director of Valley Medical Group's Heart Care for Women medical practice.

Even if you have no symptoms of heart disease, Dr. Sotsky suggests that an evaluation by a cardiologist may be appropriate if:
•you have a family history (mother, father, siblings) of coronary artery disease, aneurysm, and/or sudden death before age 50; and/or
•you have significant risk factors for heart disease,, which include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity, poor diet and inactivity.

Everyone should be aware of their personal risk factors for heart disease. To raise awareness of the cause, symptoms, and prevalence of heart disease The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ, has established the Men's Heart Center and the Heart Care for Women Screening Program. Both offer free comprehensive heart risk assessments to individuals between the ages of 20-79.


Valley Hospital


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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