February is American Heart Month, and, as a passionate doctor fighting heart disease and stroke, I wanted to first share some facts about heart disease in America.
It is still the No. 1 cause of death in the country and is No. 1 killer among African-American, Hispanic and white people, claiming more lives than all cancers combined. The most common cause: coronary artery disease, claiming 400,000 lives annually.
There is a heart attack every 34 seconds, and every minute someone dies of a cardiovascular cause. Many heart attack victims do not make it to the hospital and die of cardiac arrest. Only about 10 percent survive as a result of successful resuscitation with early defibrillation.
With regard to women, one out of three American women will die of heart disease while one in 31 will die of breast cancer. But heart disease in women gets only a fraction of the attention and education it deserves.
There are an estimated 43 million women with heart disease in America, but only a few realize that they need to be educated. More women die of heart disease than men, and this can be partially explained by the fact that women tend to have more risk factors, such as hypertension, high cholesterol or triglycerides, diabetes and depression, in addition to late presentation with typically smaller-sized coronary arteries compared to men. Women also have atypical symptoms such as shortness of breath, pain in the arms, fatigue or feeling light-headed, so it is easy to be missed or brushed off.
This is the opposite of men, who have typical chest pain symptoms. Because of that, most women ignore symptoms and do not seek medical help early.
Essential preventive measures for women include: regular exercise, weight reduction, stop smoking and stress management.
Broken heart syndrome is seen mostly in women with severe emotional trauma who are post-menopausal, leading to temporary severe congestive heart failure (or stress cardiomyopathy).
Women and men with heart disease can benefit equally from various treatments, including angioplasty, stents, coronary bypass surgery and cardiac rehabilitation.
Everyone should know that heart disease is mostly preventable, and thus we could save billions of dollars through early detection and intervention to modify risk factors, especially by lowering lipid levels to stop the progression of the atherosclerotic plaque that causes hardening of the arteries. This is the approach we adopted and have been delivering through our Health and Wellness Program, now in its seventh year.
Clinical trials have confirmed similar outcomes for optimal medical therapy versus implanting coronary stents for the treatment of stable chronic coronary artery disease.
This will have drastic implications that will limit the number of stents deployed, which will be reserved for the treatment of acute coronary syndrome or acute myocardial infraction.
The American Heart Association's "Life's Simple 7" is a composite measure of seven modifiable heart-healthy factors: cigarette smoking, physical activity, diet, body mass index, blood pressure, and cholesterol and glucose levels.
Happy Heart Month. everyone.