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Abington Health Web Chat: Preventing Heart Disease Recap

Last Thursday, Abington Health cardiologist Andrew S. Fireman, MD answered questions and gave valuable advice and information on preventing heart disease in this month’s Health Chat. Lu Ann Cahn, Director of Career Services at Temple University’s School of Media and Communications, moderated the chat. Read on for the highlights in case you missed it.

What are the basic symptoms of heart disease?

Dr. Fireman explained that the basic symptoms of heart disease are exertion chest discomfort, easy fatigability, exertion heartburn, jaw and teeth discomfort, and back discomfort. “These are all symptoms that get people’s attention,” he said. “I get very concerned when I hear patients are becoming sweaty and clammy when they have symptoms, that really is an indicator to me that this is something that raises a lot of concern.” Someone also asked if men and women have different symptoms. “There is an emphasis on women to be on guard and on the lookout for subtle types of symptoms,” Dr. Fireman said, not just an awful feeling in the chest.

How can people prevent heart disease?

To prevent heart disease, Dr. Fireman recommended keeping the waistline down, eating a diet that limits saturated fat and cholesterol, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week, abstaining from smoking, and keeping blood pressure under control. He said that with lifestyle changes, you could prevent about 80% of heart disease over a lifetime. Disease-causing plaques can begin to form in the arteries as early as your teens, however plaques are manageable. “We can live a long, long time with blockages,” Dr. Fireman said, “but we can’t live a long time with heart attacks and strokes.” Moreover, not all plaques are the same; some are more vulnerable and likely to lead to disease than others. “I challenge patients to modify their lifestyle in the hope to take those more unstable, vulnerable plaques that cause events and turn them into a more stable plaque that is less likely to cause events,” he concluded.

How does stress affect heart disease?

The idea that stress can lead to heart disease has gone in and out of favor. More recent studies are looking into different types of stress like stress related to family and work or personal and emotional stress. All of these things can increase your risk of getting heart disease, but the numbers that they tend to increase by are relatively small, Dr. Fireman explained. Stressful situations can be more of a trigger for events than an active player in heart disease. Furthermore, recent studies say that exercise can relieve stress and improve heart health better than antidepressants can.

What are some tips for keeping a healthy diet?

Dr. Fireman pointed out that the most important part of any diet is having a program or a plan—not just making meal-to-meal decisions. He added that there are many resources for dieters, including nutrition counseling from Abington Health. When it comes down to it, find something that makes sense to you—whether it’s a fad diet, Weight Watchers, a meal replacement plan—and stick with it. “The most important thing is a plan and advice and knowledge,” Dr. Fireman said.

What are the main takeaways from this Health Chat?

Dr. Fireman said that the most important things one can do to prevent heart disease is to eat well, refrain from smoking, get enough exercise, and watch your waistline. Also, if you do have a heart attack, seek care immediately. Early heart attack care can save your life.

Be sure to tune into the next Health Chat on Tuesday, March 24 at 6 p.m. with Dr. Andrew Star, medical director of Abington Health’s Orthopedic and Spine Institute. He will answer questions on knee pain, both conservative and surgical treatments for knee pain as well as MAKOplasty, a highly advanced and minimally invasive partial knee surgery that relieves pain caused by osteoarthritis. Register and ask your confidential questions ahead of time here.