February is American Heart Month | PostIndependent.com

February is American Heart Month

We live in one of the Healthiest States when it comes to heart disease. Yet coronary heart disease (CHD), or simply heart disease, is the second leading cause of death in Colorado, and the number one killer of both men and women in the country. The need for advanced cardiac care is very real in the Roaring Fork Valley. Despite a healthier population and lower rates of obesity, heart disease is prevalent. Dr. Michael Rubinstein, interventional cardiologist from the Heart & Vascular Center at Valley View, states, “Here there are different stresses on the heart and on the atrial chambers, as a consequence of living at higher altitude.”

One of the most common causes of heart disease is the hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Hardening of the arteries occurs when fat; cholesterol and other substances build up in the walls of the arteries and form hard structures called plaques. The narrowed arteries lead to decreased blood flow, thus decreasing the oxygen supply. If left untreated, the buildup can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

All too often people experience the early warning signs of heart disease and ignore them, hoping they go away or liken their symptoms to unrelated conditions. The best way to find out if you are at risk of heart disease is to be evaluated. “We have an increased capacity to detect the onset of heart disease before a heart attack occurs. It is important to be aware of heart disease presentations and symptoms,” says Dr. Rubinstein, who advises members of the public to “be honest with yourself” and seek help.

Here are 10 signs or symptoms that should never be ignored: anxiety, chest discomfort, rapid or irregular pulse, shortness of breath; swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen; fatigue, weakness, dizziness, pain in other parts of the body; nausea or lack of appetite.

Before you find yourself on the receiving end of immediate cardiac care, understanding the risk factors of heart disease can help your confidence in making changes to improve your health. Although there are uncontrollable factors that may lead to heart disease — such as, age, gender, and family history — there are lifestyle changes that can decrease your chances of heart disease. Modifiable or avoidable risk factors include tobacco exposure, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, unhealthy diets, excessive consumption of alcohol and stress.

February is American Heart Month, a perfect time to learn more about your risks for heart disease and to make the necessary lifestyle changes to stay heart healthy.

For more information about your risk of heart disease, contact the Heart & Vascular Center at 970-384-7290.

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