Heart health requires lifestyle vigilance
A: For men, commonly occurring symptoms usually include chest pain that may become severe, upper body discomfort, labored breathing, undue fatigue, palpitations, nausea, intense anxiety or cold sweat. For women, commonly occurring symptoms usually include shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue, lower chest discomfort sometimes mistaken as indigestion, heaviness between shoulder blades, nausea, back or jaw pain and chest pains.
Q: What are symptoms of high blood pressure, and why is this important?
A: High blood pressure – hypertension -- is a silent disease that may not exhibit significant symptoms until serious damage has been done. It’s a condition in which the pressure readings are chronically above the normal range. Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure can weaken the walls of blood vessels and cause all kinds of health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and eye disease.
Q: How do cholesterol levels factor in to heart conditions, and how can we keep them at an appropriate level?
A: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and other cells, and found in certain foods, such as food from animals, such as dairy products, eggs and meat. When too much cholesterol is present, plaque may form in the body's arteries, narrowing the space for blood to flow to the heart. Over time, this buildup causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which can lead to heart disease.
When not enough oxygen-carrying blood reaches the heart, chest pain -- called angina -- can result. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by total blockage of a coronary artery, the result is a heart attack. This is usually due to a sudden closure from a blood clot forming on top of a previous narrowing.
To help manage your cholesterol levels, eat a diet that’s low in saturated fats. Instead, eat nonstarchy veggies, fresh fruit and other foods that are high in fiber content. Eating more fiber will also help keep your internal engine running smoothly.
Q: Are there preventive measures for heart attacks and strokes?
A: I suggest regular physical exams that include checking blood pressure, pulse and cholesterol levels. You can do yourself a lot of good by making healthy lifestyle modifications that include eating sensible, portion-controlled meals and exercising regularly, which will also help you maintain a healthy weight range. I also suggest reducing your salt intake, getting adequate sleep and quitting any tobacco use.
NAME: Rupa Puttappa, M.D., board-certified physician specializing in cardiology and cardiovascular disease
PRACTICE: Kelsey-Seybold’s Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center, 15655 Cypress Woods Medical Drive, No. 100, Houston
EDUCATION: Bangalore Medical School in Karnataka, India
EXPERIENCE: Internship and residency at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Centers, New York, N.Y.
Mark DeHaven is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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