“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
— Paulo Coelho
Hello Fort Bend and the greater Houston area! It is WORLD HEART DAY again. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year since Hurricane Harvey. I send my regards to all that suffered from losses, to all the heroes that risk their lives to save others and to my OakBend colleagues who worked long hours to take care of folks that came to the hospital at that time. I remember so many folks coming in during Harvey and after for heart problems. We had a lot of heart attacks, congestive heart failure exacerbation and arrhythmias that month. The only thing that linked everyone’s heart problem to occur coincidentally around Harvey was stress. Anyone who has been to one of my speaking event knows how important stress plays in overall heart health. Stress leads to silent hypertension. And whether it is silent hypertension, or essential hypertension, we have found out in recent studies that high blood pressure leading to vessel damage and inflammation produces a cascade of events that lead to vessel narrowing or plaque buildup in our vessels. It isn’t just cholesterol anymore, but a combination of high blood pressure with high cholesterol from unhealthy eating, and little physical activity that lead to atherosclerosis.
It is hard to reverse something that has already happened like a heart attack; even the best medicine or procedure cannot reverse heart damage. But prevention can continue to keep things new and gives us that best chance to live a longer life or a better quality of life. So how is prevention possible? We often make prevention more difficult than it is. The first thing is knowledge of the risks or how to identify the risks, the warning signs or symptoms that can lead to an adverse event such as heart attack or stroke. And the second thing is to do something about it, to decrease the odds of it happening.
So if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, make sure you get these medical issues under control. And if you have symptoms, which can be as subtle as feeling tired or short of breath to having neck pain, jaw pain, back pain, arm pain or frankly chest pain, please go see your primary care provider or cardiologist and get tested so that more can be done to prevent a heart attack or stroke from happening. These symptoms, as subtle as they may be, could be your only warning signs.
Much, if not all prevention is done through diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and/or the proper medicine and not through procedures, as many people fear. So please get started early. I believe we need to make prevention a culture, and not a reaction.
Your local heart doc,
-Long B Cao MD, FACC