Don't ignore the warning signs Cardiovascular hearth health

Don't ignore the warning signs

If you had warning signs throughout the day for all the mishaps that could happen, would you acknowledge or ignore them? Chances are that you’d be thankful for the warning.

When it comes to heart health, your body already might be trying to warn you. It’s up to you to choose whether or not to acknowledge the signs and take action.
It’s never too late to start paying attention to your heart health. Find out how young at heart you are by taking the new online Heart Health Assessment offered by University of Minnesota Physicians Heart at Fairview. The assessment also will determine if you’re at risk for developing heart disease (also called cardiovascular disease) within the next 10 years and which lifestyle factors you can address to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Before you find out your heart age, read our Q&A with a UMPhysicians Heart cardiologist.

Your Heart Expert

Q: What are the primary risk factors for heart disease?
A: Some risk factors for heart disease are beyond a person’s control such as gender, age and family health history. Other risk factors are entirely within an individual’s control such as smoking, inactivity, weight, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Q: How does heart disease affect women differently from men?
A: In one sense, women are luckier than men. Heart disease is less prevalent until they get older and stop having their periods. Still, heart disease and strokes remain the leading causes of death among women.
Q: What are some of the signs that something is wrong?
A: The classic sign of a heart attack is chest pain or pressure in the middle of the chest; however, the pain or pressure doesn’t have to go down just the left arm (or anywhere else) to warrant concern. Of course, not all chest pain or pressure is caused by a heart attack, but pain in the chest should always be taken seriously.
Chest pain or discomfort that comes on with activity or rest and then goes away after a few minutes is very worrisome. Unusual shortness of breath with exercise is equally concerning. If you’re worried about your pain or discomfort, you should see a doctor.
If you have significant pain or discomfort in your chest lasting more than 10 to 15 minutes, you should seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Q: Are the symptoms different between genders?
A: Women often don’t exhibit the classic chest pain described above. They may experience unusual shortness of breath with activities that they normally can do without difficulty. Any abrupt change in a person’s ability to exert themselves is concerning even if they don’t have chest pain or discomfort.

Q: What can someone do on their own to prevent or reduce their risk for heart disease?
A: The most controllable risk factor is tobacco use. Stopping the use of tobacco, especially smoking, is the single, most powerful way of lowering your risk for heart disease and stroke. Keeping your weight under control (not more than 20 percent over your ideal body weight) and remaining active are also important.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise (30 minutes five times a week) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise. You don’t need expensive equipment or a health club membership—walking alone is excellent exercise. Any activity or sports that raise your heart and breathing rate, and make you sweat a little will work. Exercising with a partner is a great way to help each other stay on track.

Regular exercise and keeping a healthy weight can also help to reduce other heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and abnormal cholesterol levels. Exercise, for example, helps to raise HDL cholesterol (good) and lower LDL cholesterol (bad). If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, it’s important to keep these levels under control.

Q: Are there any new research or treatment breakthroughs?
A: New ways to treat heart disease, including stents and drugs, are always in development—but the goal is to try and avoid the need for any procedures in the first place. You can’t do anything about your gender or who your parents are, but you can:
• Stop smoking (better yet, never start!)
• Keep your weight under control
• Start exercising
• Make sure your blood pressure is normal
• Check your cholesterol

To find out your heart age, take our Heart Health Assessment. For more information on heart health or to schedule an appointment, call 612-365-5000.

Find the University of Minnesota Physicians Heart Clinic Location Nearest You: 

University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview
Phillips-Wangensteen Building
516 Delaware St. S.E.
Fourth Floor, Clinic 4B
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Appointments and Assistance: 612-365-5000

Fairview Southdale Hospital
6405 France Ave. S.
Suite W200
Edina, MN 55435
Appointments and Assistance: 612-365-5000

Fairview Ridges Hospital
305 E. Nicollet Blvd.
Suite 372
Burnsville, MN 55337
Appointments and Assistance: 612-365-5000

Fairview Lakes Medical Center
5200 Fairview Boulevard
2nd Floor
Wyoming, MN 55092
Appointments and Assistance: 651-982-7690

Fairview Maple Grove Medical Center
14500 99th Ave. N.
Maple Grove, MN 55369
Appointments and Assistance: 763-898-1000

Fairview Northland Medical Center
911 Northland Drive
Princeton, MN 55371
Appointments and Assistance: 763-389-6353
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