Heart Month Advice from Three of the Nation’s Top Cardiovascular Experts
It’s National Heart Month and healthcare providers are painting the town red as we always do in February. But what does all the fuss really mean? How does all of the news in cardiac care impact you and your loved ones? Well, there are two main things that are important for you to know.
First, we are making amazing strides in combating heart disease, the nation’s number one killer.
There are better medications available, allowing your primary care doctor and your cardiologist to help you control your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, prevent blood clots and slow the advancement of coronary artery disease.
We have more refined screening tests, and we’re better at interpreting the results, allowing us to tailor your care to match the unique combination of factors that define your condition—and we can adjust the care as your circumstances change.
We continue to perfect our techniques for repairing damage to your heart and your cardiovascular system in ways that drastically reduce the need for incisions, allowing many procedures to be performed without an overnight hospital stay—something unimaginable just a decade ago.
And for advanced disease, even the “major” surgeries are now performed in minimally invasive ways. In fact, thanks to the groundbreaking technology of our Hybrid Operating Rooms at Maimonides Medical Center, we can now safely perform multiple procedures under one anesthesia, further shortening hospital stays and improving outcomes for patients.
So, the extent to which we can detect, manage, repair and correct heart disease is quite stunning in this day and age.
Second, partially due to all of the above, we are collectively living longer.
While that is certainly good news, there is a potential downside: as we age, more of us will need to be treated for heart disease. That’s the part we need to focus on so we can learn to minimize our risks.
Should I take an aspirin a day? Is dark chocolate good for heart disease? Is it OK to drink red wine with dinner? Which supplements will help me beat the odds?
You hear these stories in the news and on the internet all the time. We’re here to tell you to take a breath and relax. In fact, reducing stress overall is one way to reduce your risk of heart disease!
We can’t help what we’ve inherited in terms of risk factors, but there’s still plenty we can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
We want you to try and ignore the gimmicks and think of the common sense advice you’ve heard through the years.
Eat healthy foods and become more active. For most people, that simply means you should add more vegetables and whole grains to your diet, and take a brisk walk every day. If you have significant issues with diet or activity, talk to your doctor.
If you have mild symptoms of any kind, let your doctor check you and determine if you need additional help, or screening tests or medications. You’re not alone in your quest to achieve wellness.
And if you have a sudden noticeable symptom—tightness or pain in the chest or jaw, irregular or rapid heartbeat, swelling in your legs, fainting—don’t go to the internet. Go to the ER of a heart hospital like Maimonides for immediate evaluation. Getting the right care, right away, can save your life. It can also make the difference between a life with many limitations or a full recovery.
Now you know what the fuss is all about. Let’s use Heart Month as a reminder to be good to ourselves, to make healthier choices, to enjoy life more fully and continue to win the battle against heart disease.
Jacob Shani, MD
Greg Ribakove, MD
Chief, Cardiothoracic Surgery
Robert Rhee, MD
Chief, Vascular Surgery
The authors are the leaders of cardiovascular services at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, one of the nation’s best heart hospitals as measured by both NYS and the federal government.