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Greater Living - Heart Health Discussion

February 12, 2020
Could You Be at Risk for Heart Disease?

It’s the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. and you can be at risk without even knowing it. While cancer may be the first thing that comes to mind, heart disease is actually the leading cause of death for Americans. Dr. Reed Riley, chief of Cardiology at Johns Hopkins at GBMC, and Mark Fisher, nurse manager of the GBMC Emergency Department, talked about what you can do to keep your heart healthy and what steps you should take if you think you may be experiencing a heart attack or stroke.

“Coronary artery disease has exploded over the last several decades,” said Dr. Riley. “The problem is that until the arteries in the heart are about 70% blocked, you won’t experience angina (tightness or pain in the chest with exercise or exertion). So, heart disease can be progressing, and you don’t even know it. The key to preventing heart attacks is to prevent the plaque buildup in the arteries. There are several common sense, cheap ways we can do that—healthy diet, 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, not smoking, all of which help maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Even if you have a family history of heart disease, which increases your risk, you can lower that risk through these lifestyle changes in most cases.”

Dr. Riley also answered questions about the role sleep apnea plays in heart disease, what causes sudden cardiac death, and how inflammation can increase your risk of developing heart disease.

Mark Fisher explained when you should go the hospital if you have symptoms of a heart attack or stroke and what happens when people come to the emergency department with these symptoms. “You know your body. If something feels different than normal, even if it doesn’t fit the list of typical symptoms, seek medical attention,” he said. “It’s also important to be open and honest with the ED nurses and physicians. Don’t hide your symptoms. When we know what’s going on with you, we can get you the care you need.”

Mr. Fisher also described the difference between men’s heart attack symptoms and women’s and why you should never drive yourself or have a loved one drive you to the hospital if you think you might be having a heart attack or stroke.

“Never be afraid to call 911,” he said. “They can assess you at home and start interventions right away if needed, which could save your life.”
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