Heart-to-Heart with Grand River Health | PostIndependent.com

Heart-to-Heart with Grand River Health

Blair Bracken
Community Relations Grand River Health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Here’s the good news: It is also one of the most preventable. Making heart-healthy choices, knowing your family health history and the risk factors for heart disease, having regular check-ups and working with your physician to manage your health are all integral aspects of saving lives from this often silent killer.

February is Heart Health Month. Make a difference in your community by spreading the word about strategies for preventing heart disease and encouraging those around you to have their hearts checked and commit to heart-healthy lives.

What is Heart Disease:

Heart disease refers to various types of conditions that can affect heart function. These types include:

• Coronary artery (atherosclerotic) heart disease that affects the arteries to the heart

• Valvular heart disease that affects how the valves function to regulate blood flow in and out of the heart

• Cardiomyopathy that affects how the heart muscle squeezes

• Heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias) that affect the electrical conduction

• Heart infections where the heart has structural problems that develop before birth

Signs and Symptoms ofCoronary Heart Disease Complications:

• Heart Attack

The most common heart attack symptom in men and women is chest pain or discomfort. However, only half of women who have heart attacks have chest pain. Women are more likely than men to report back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, or problems breathing. Heart attacks also can cause upper body discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or upper part of the stomach. Other heart attack symptoms are light-headedness and dizziness, which occur more often in women than men. Men are more likely than women to break out in a cold sweat and to report pain in the left arm during a heart attack.

• Heart Failure

Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Heart failure doesn’t mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. It means that your heart can’t cope with the demands of everyday activities. Heart failure causes shortness of breath and fatigue that tends to increase with physical exertion. Heart failure also can cause swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen and veins in the neck.


An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slowly, or with an irregular rhythm. Some people describe arrhythmias as fluttering or thumping feelings or skipped beats in their chests. These feelings are called palpitations.

Some arrhythmias can cause your heart to suddenly stop beating. This condition is called sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA causes loss of consciousness and death if it’s not treated right away.

A number of factors play a role in heart disease risk. Some include family history and age (if your relatives have heart disease or you are older, your risk goes up), but others you have more control over.

How to Prevent Heart Disease:

Much of the advice to avoid heart disease is the same health advice given for other conditions: Stop smoking, exercise and eat a diet that is low in cholesterol and salt — cholesterol being the source of blockage and salt contributing to higher blood pressure.

In addition to lifestyle changes, some treatments are available to help avoid heart disease. The FDA has approved a number of drugs for improving cholesterol levels. Perhaps the best-known are statins. They slow cholesterol production by the liver and speed up how fast it is removed LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream.

Surgical options can also treat heart disease. Coronary angioplasty is performed over 1 million times each year on patients in the United States, according to the NIH. In this procedure, a balloon is threaded into the affected blood vessel and inflated, pushing the plaque blocking the artery to the sides of the vessel. Sometimes, this procedure is accompanied by placement of a stent — a mesh tube designed to hold the blood vessel open.

If you are concerned about your heart health, contact your physician at Grand River Health to schedule an appointment.

Information derived from: nih.gov; heart.org; livescience.com; mayoclinic.org; webmd.com

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