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Why the month of February is dedicated to listening to your heart

Women are more susceptible to go untreated or misdiagnosed for heart disease
Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 7:37 AM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease continues to be the greatest health threat to Americans, even with the pandemic. That’s why the month of February is dedicated to heart health awareness.

General cardiologist at Aspirus Health, Dr. Vrunda Patel, said there are three things that contribute to the foundation of heart health. Those are genetics, diet and ‘functional capacity,’ or exercise.

Dr. Patel said when people come in to see her for a check-up, or are just worried about heart health, she refers back to these principles. She asks her patients if there’s any family history of heart disease or other heart-related issues. Then she asks about the person’s diet and exercise. Patel said a bad diet can lead to increased health issues, as well as a lack of exercise.

When talking about functional capacity, Patel said to pay attention to how much your heart can handle when doing household work or walking the dog. If you start to realize a decrease in ability, that can be a sign to seek medical care before it’s too late.

”There’s not a lot of emphasis on prevention and I think if we want to talk about breakthrough, that’s kind of the breakthrough right now, where more and more the medical societies are recognizing that prevention is a key thing,” Patel said.

When going about prevention, it relates back to diet and exercise. She helps motivate her patients to, instead of thinking of it as a diet, try thinking more about it as a lifestyle. When it comes to exercise, she said to try to get at least 30 minutes a day, which can even be broken up into two 15 minute intervals and to take it slow.

But women may go misdiagnosed or untreated when it comes to heart conditions. Dr. Patel said that’s because women don’t show the same symptoms as men do, like chest, arm or jaw pain, which Patel also explained those kinds of symptoms are shown in a dire situation. But, instead, women can have symptoms like nausea, acid reflux, or even just feeling wiped out.

She said there’s a greater need for awareness of symptoms in women because in the medical field it can be easily missed. But research has proven to show that early identification, treatment and attention to the risk factors, can reduce the chances of disease burden and death. That’s why Dr. Patel urges patients to pay close attention to their functional capacity.

“It’s going to be your earliest red flag, your chest pain, your arm pain is usually going to come when things are dire. Your ability to do stuff and the lack thereof is usually going to be the first sign any organ is going to give you, especially the heart.”

She said to seek medical advice or a doctor if anything seems out of the ordinary.

Patel also reinstated that smoking is a big factor as well when it comes to heart health since it can lead to an increased risk of a heart attack.

Click here to read how heart disease is still the number one killer in the U.S. with COVID-19.

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