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The Heart of the Matter: Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

  • Category: CHMC News
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  • Written By: Jessica M Bowline
The Heart of the Matter: Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

February is a pivotal month for us at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center (CHMC) as we observe Heart Awareness Month, emphasizing the crucial role of cardiovascular health in our lives. Our mission is to empower our community with knowledge and tools to fend off heart disease, the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you understand heart health better and take proactive steps towards a healthier heart.

Understanding Heart Health

Heart disease doesn't discriminate, affecting individuals across all walks of life and standing as the foremost cause of mortality nationwide. Recognizing the symptoms of heart-related issues is the first step towards prevention. The American Heart Association highlights several critical signs of heart attacks and strokes that should not be ignored:

Heart Attack Warning Signs

  • Chest Discomfort: Persistent discomfort in the chest's center—described as pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain—that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back, is a classic symptom of a heart attack.

  • Upper Body Discomfort: Look out for pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

  • Shortness of Breath: This may occur with or without chest discomfort.

  • Other Symptoms: Additional signs include cold sweats, nausea, and lightheadedness.

Recognizing a Stroke (F.A.S.T.)

  • Face Drooping: A stroke may cause one side of the face to droop or feel numb. An uneven smile is a warning sign.

  • Arm Weakness: If one arm feels weak or numb and droops when trying to raise both, it could indicate a stroke.

  • Speech Difficulty: Trouble with speech, such as slurred speech or difficulty understanding speech. A simple test is to ask the person to repeat a straightforward sentence.

  • Time to Act: If you notice any of these symptoms, even if they seem to disappear, it's critical to call 911 and get medical attention immediately.

Heart Health Tips

Maintaining a healthy heart involves understanding the risks and recognizing the warning signs of heart conditions. By staying informed and adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, we can work together to reduce the incidence of heart disease in our community. This Heart Awareness Month, let's commit to taking care of our hearts for a brighter, healthier future.


1. Stay Active

Regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining a healthy heart. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Even short bursts of activity, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can add up and contribute to your heart health. Activities like walking, cycling, swimming, or jogging not only boost your heart health but also improve your mood and energy levels, making it easier to maintain a regular exercise routine.

2. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. A balanced diet and regular exercise are key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Monitoring your portion sizes and avoiding late-night snacking can also help control your weight. Remember, losing weight is not just about dieting but adopting a healthier lifestyle that includes better eating habits and physical activity.

3. Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. Quitting smoking can dramatically improve your heart health and overall well-being. Even exposure to secondhand smoke can increase your risk of heart disease, so avoiding tobacco smoke altogether is crucial. Limit alcohol consumption, as excessive drinking can raise blood pressure and add extra calories, leading to weight gain. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation, following the guidelines of up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

4. Embrace a Heart-Healthy Diet

A nutritious diet is your first line of defense against heart disease. Focus on incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into your meals. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and flaxseeds, can also support heart health by reducing blood pressure and inflammation. Limit the intake of processed foods, saturated fats, and sugars, which can contribute to heart disease. Remember, a colorful plate is not just appealing to the eye, but it's also a sign of a heart-healthy meal, providing a wide range of nutrients your heart loves.

Optimal heart health begins with nourishing our bodies with a low-fat, whole food, plant-based diet while steering clear of processed foods and excessive sodium. To truly thrive, we must also tread lightly on alcohol consumption. Tailoring our exercise routines to individual needs, integrating 40 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity at least 5 times a week, complemented by 20 minutes of resistance training thrice weekly, forms a solid foundation for a heart-healthy lifestyle." - Dr. Antecol, CMCH Cardiology Department

5. Manage Stress

Chronic stress may contribute to heart disease, especially if it leads to unhealthy behaviors like overeating, physical inactivity, or smoking. Finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as through meditation, yoga, spending time with loved ones, or engaging in hobbies that bring you joy, can significantly improve your heart health. Additionally, consider professional support if stress becomes overwhelming, as managing mental health is just as important as physical health in preventing heart disease.

Embracing a Heart-Healthy Future with Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center

The CHMC Cardiology Department Supports “Wear Red” Day

Heart Awareness Month is a pivotal time to highlight the importance of heart health. Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center is here to provide you with the essential resources, expert care, and information needed to start your journey towards improved heart health. We invite you to embrace a heart-healthy lifestyle by staying active, eating nutritiously, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption.

Recognizing the signs of heart issues and taking preventative steps can significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, leading to a more vibrant and fulfilling life. Knowledge and proactive management of your health are the most effective weapons in combating heart disease. As we commemorate Heart Awareness Month, let's make a collective commitment to put our heart health first and motivate others in our community to do the same. Together, we can create a lasting impact on our overall health and forge a path towards a heart-healthy future.

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of heart disease, the professionals at CHMC can help. Under the guidance of cardiologist Dr. Antecol, the CHMC cardiology department is ready to help. From our compassionate cardiology team to our onsite state-of-the-art cardiac imaging, we are ready to help you on the path to a heart health future.

Contact a member of our team at 315.713.6765 to schedule your appointment today.