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Catch up on delayed heart care

| Heart Health | Healthy You

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If you have any symptoms, get care now. No symptoms? Get screened now.

Have you put off heart care in the past few years? Consider taking stock of your heart health now.

Symptoms? Get care now

If you have experienced or are experiencing any symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, seek care right away.

"Don't wait!," says Margo Kozinski, MD, a cardiovascular physician at PeaceHealth in Vancouver, Washington.

Surviving a heart attack at home doesn't mean everything is OK. In fact, the longer you wait after a known or suspected attack, the harder it is to return to health.

“The sooner your heart can be checked out, the sooner treatment can be started to prevent further damage and possibly restore function,” Dr. Kozinski says.

Read more about symptoms of heart attack and stroke.

No symptoms? Consider screenings

If you don’t have symptoms, ask your primary care doctor about being screened for these five main contributors to heart disease:

  1. Family history. You can’t do anything to change this risk factor; however, it is an important part of helping your doctor understand what to look for. Did your dad require a heart valve replacement? Did your maternal grandmother die of a stroke? How old were they when they were diagnosed? This detail gives you and your doctor a better chance of taking meaningful action to potentially prevent, identify or treat issues early.
  1. High blood pressure. Your blood pressure is typically taken at every medical or dental appointment. If your blood pressure is consistently too high, your doctor might recommend you monitor it at home. Talk with your provider about setting a personal goal for your readings and ways to reduce or manage your hypertension.
  1. Diabetes.  Do you have diabetes (or pre-diabetes)? Experts encourage adults aged 40-70 who carry extra weight to have a screening for diabetes every three years. Diabetes has serious and far-reaching implications for overall health, including your heart. If you have diabetes, work closely with your provider to manage it with medications and/or lifestyle practices.
  1. High cholesterol. Too much cholesterol can lead to the buildup of plaque (a fatty waxy substance) inside your arteries. It can also make your arteries hard or stiff. Both of these can reduce or block the flow of blood to your heart or brain. Get a baseline reading of your cholesterol levels and ask your doctor to recommend ways to keep your cholesterol in a healthy range.
  1. Smoking. Smoking tobacco — especially cigarettes — increases your risk for many diseases, including heart disease and stroke. When you read how your body responds to smoking, you can understand why. Among other things, smoking makes your blood more “sticky” which can lead to clots or clogs. Smoking also reduces the oxygen available in your bloodstream. And it can disrupt the rhythm of your heartbeat. Use this tool to see if you are ready to quit smoking.

Screenings like those above are the first line of defense for identifying whether you have or could develop heart disease.

It's critical to get heart screenings done regularly, says Dr. Kozinski. If your risk is relatively low, visit your provider at least once a year.

If you have diabetes or other conditions that put you at higher risk, plan to see your provider as often as you need to reduce your risks. And take active steps to care for your overall health: 

  • Exercise or move every day without doing too much. Try 20 minutes of walking.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Eat a whole-food, plant-based diet.
  • Manage mental and emotional stress.
  • Quit smoking. If you can’t quit altogether, cut back on how much you smoke.

Schedule an appointment with your PCP or a PeaceHealth cardiologist if you have concerns about your heart.

If you need specialized care for your heart, our teams of heart care experts can develop a plan that works for you.

portrait of Malgorzata I. Kozinski MD

Malgorzata I. Kozinski MD

Interventional Cardiology

Malgorzata I. Kozinski MD practices Cardiology in Vancouver.