By Laura S. Picciano, DO
Know your risk factors
Yes, it is true that family history is critical in assessing your risk of developing a stroke or heart attack. While there’s not much to do to change your genes, “take heart” and modify those risk factors that you can. If you haven’t been to the doctor for a physical in a while, make that appointment to get yourself screened for the presence of diabetes and high cholesterol. As part of your exam, your doctor will check your blood pressure and assess your weight. This is a good time to ask about how your diet measures up and get advice on how you can improve it. For those of you who do smoke, this is a great time to quit – and there is a lot we can offer to help you to stick to that goal. Do find a way to include exercise in your daily life. Physical activity does wonders to reduce the development of the above conditions and will improve the control for those already afflicted.
Signs and Symptoms
Though chest pain is still the most common presenting symptom of a heart attack, the warning signs can differ in men and women. The pain is typically described as a squeezing or pressure sensation lasting more than a few minutes. Women may have more atypical symptoms of a heart attack, which include fatigue, shortness of breath and nausea. Pain in the jaw, back, stomach and upper extremities could point to a cardiac origin. Patients who are diabetic may also have an altered perception of the pain; in fact, they may not experience pain at all.
In stroke, signs and symptoms differ depending on the area affected. Sudden weakness or numbness of an extremity, slurred speech, acute dizziness and difficulty getting words out are all significant warning signs that should prompt immediate medical attention.
Remember, our goal is to prevent these serious conditions from ever developing. However, if you experience any of these important signs, please seek treatment immediately. Timely treatment saves lives and preserves cardiovascular function.
Take good care of your heart, for you are truly your own Valentine!