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Published on February 02, 2021

During February, Be Aware of Your Heart Health

Avera joins health professionals nationwide to see February – American Heart Month – as a perfect time to review heart health basic facts.

There are simple steps everyone can take to reduce the risks of heart disease, especially since it remains the leading cause of death in the nation.

Since one in every four deaths can be attributed to heart disease, know your risk factors, such as:

  • Being overweight due to poor diet or a lack of exercise
  • A family history of heart disease
  • High blood pressure and blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking

“When patients see their primary care providers regularly, heart disease risk factors can be part of the discussion,” said cardiologist Thomas Waterbury, MD, of North Central Heart, a division of the Avera Heart Hospital. “The recommended screenings for cardiac health are affordable and often easy, and they could save your life.”

Avera offers two Planet Heart screenings. The cardiac screen includes a cardiac calcium CT scan and measures of blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol and blood sugar. The vascular screen includes an ultrasound screen of the carotid artery and aorta as well as an ankle brachial screen.

Individuals can receive either test for $50 or both for $75, and the program include risk assessment and education from Avera’s expert cardiovascular team. Planet Heart is offered at 17 Avera locations; in the Aberdeen area, the program is called Heart Smart. These programs, along with tests for cholesterol and other factors, help people “know their numbers” that relate to cardiac health.

“When patients and doctors work together, topics like high-blood pressure medications, high cholesterol and diabetes can be discussed,” Waterbury said. A diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, 30 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise five times a week and quitting smoking are all good steps toward better heart health.

Responding to heart attack emergencies is also critical. Call 911 if you or someone you love experiences:

• Chest pain or discomfort.

• Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper abdomen.

• Shortness of breath.

• Nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats.

“Remember that a delay can be deadly. Call 911,” said Waterbury.

Interventions to prevent further damage due to heart attack include the placement of primary stents or the administration of thrombolytic “clot-busting” drugs. “We have treatments that can save lives and heart muscle, but timing is important,” Waterbury said.

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