The Importance of Heart Health

The Importance of Heart Health

Writer / Erika Bolton
Photography Provided

February is American Heart Month, a time for focusing on our cardiovascular health and prioritizing the importance of maintaining a healthy heart. “Even if you feel like you are 100% healthy, you may be at risk for heart diseases without even knowing it,” says Henry Sadlo, M.D., a cardiologist with UofL Health who practices at UofL Physicians – Cardiology at Springs Medical Center in St. Matthews. “It is important to talk to your primary care provider about your risk-factor profile, as this is the best way to evaluate if individuals need to get referred to a cardiologist.”

Heart Health

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, yet many people rule out the possibility of it because they don’t fall into the stereotypical categories for high risk. “The truth is, many individuals are at higher risk for developing a cardiovascular disease, so it’s extremely important to take the steps to reduce your risk,” Sadlo says. “There are some risk factors that you can eliminate, but others can be well-controlled to reduce your heart risk, by visiting sites like Xcellent Life, keeping your heart as healthy as possible.”

Some risk factors you can work to eliminate include:

  • Smoking. If you are an active smoker, you are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease as smoking leads to buildup of plaque and fatty substances in your arteries. Cutting back on smoking initially, and working toward eliminating smoking entirely, greatly reduces cardiac risk.
  • High blood pressure. High blood pressure forces your heart to work harder to pump blood to the rest of your body. When your heart works in overdrive to pump blood to your body, it causes the left ventricle in your heart to thicken, which can lead to issues such as heart attack and heart failure.
  • High cholesterol. Similar to smoking, having a high cholesterol level causes plaque to build up in the arteries, which increases risk for heart attack and stroke. General guidelines are for LDL cholesterol to be at less than 100. For individuals with known heart disease, an LDL cholesterol level at less than 70 is the minimum goal.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes causes high blood glucose levels. Over time, high blood glucose can damage blood vessels and nerves that work to control your heart. Therefore, many people with diabetes often develop heart diseases at a much younger age than people without diabetes.
  • Diet and unhealthy eating habits. Forming unhealthy eating habits puts you at risk for cardiovascular diseases for multiple reasons. Having a higher-than-recommended intake of foods with a lot of salt and fat causes inflammation that leads to heart issues. One way to reduce your risk is to make dietary changes, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, consuming small portions of food with minimal salts and fats, and limiting food and beverages with sugar. Additionally, unhealthy eating habits can eventually lead to obesity, which is another key risk factor for heart diseases. Risks associated with obesity can be reduced by working to lose weight and implementing at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise five days per week, for a minimum of 150 minutes per week, which is the recommended American Heart Association guideline.

Heart Health

“Although there are some risk factors that can be reduced with changing your habits, there are others that can’t be changed,” Sadlo says. A family history of heart disease is a major risk factor that cannot be controlled or changed. Some of these higher-risk groups include males, minority groups and people over the age of 45. If you belong to a minority group, it’s especially important to be aware of and understand the high-risk factors you may have. The Hispanic population is one of the fastest-growing populations in the United States and has the greatest risk for certain risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Additionally, African Americans are at higher risk for heart disease (heart failure in particular), diabetes and high blood pressure. Although heredity cannot be changed, most risk factors can be modified to reduce long-term cardiac risk.

“Whether your risk factors can be changed or not, if you fall into one or more of these categories or are unsure of your risk, it’s important to get screened to get an assessment of your heart health and reduce the risk of future cardiac events,” Sadlo says. One of the best screenings to determine any potential signs of coronary disease is the coronary calcium scan. This can help to indicate if you are at risk for heart attack even if you are not experiencing any symptoms. Your health care provider can help determine if you are an appropriate candidate for this test, which is one of the most common indicators to initiate statin medications to lower cholesterol, in addition to maintaining a heart-healthy diet.

During this noninvasive procedure, a CAT scan, without any intravenous injections, is done to identify calcified plaque. Once images are captured, a computer will create a calcium score, and UofL Health radiologists will finalize and review all images for a final report. Once the scan is over, your physician will receive the results of the scan and work with you to determine the next steps and provide recommendations for treatment if necessary. The team at UofL Health started this coronary calcium screening program in 2014, and has since helped to improve patient treatments and identified high-risk individuals that benefitted from life-saving procedures such as coronary stenting and coronary bypass surgeries.

“When it comes to your heart health, it’s important to not delay taking preventative measures,” Sadlo says. You can contact your primary care provider today to see if you are an appropriate candidate for this important screening test.

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If you are unsure of where to begin with your heart health journey, UofL Health – Heart Hospital provides world-class,

comprehensive cardiovascular care. UofL Health – Heart Hospital has a network of more than 300 experts throughout Louisville, and close to home in St. Matthews at Springs Medical Center, dedicated to providing patients with life-changing diagnoses and treatment plans. With 17 different comprehensive heart services, UofL Health – Heart Hospital is guaranteed to offer a service that best fits your heart’s needs, no matter what stage of your journey.

Heart Health

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