Protect against heart failure
By Amy Northrop
Your heart is clearly the most important muscle in your body. It’s made to beat powerfully and continuously minute after minute, day after day, without rest for your entire life. It should not weaken, but if it does – for any reason – the result is heart failure.
“The term sounds really horrible,” said Dr. Darcy Green Conaway,
a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Specialists of Lawrence. “But it doesn’t mean that the heart stopped working. It’s simply not pumping as effectively as it should to get blood and oxygen to the cells of the body.”
Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization for Americans age 65 and over. Although age is not the primary reason for the weakening of the heart, there is some correlation. The most common risk factors are:
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history of heart disease/heart failure
Damage to the heart muscle can develop gradually as a result of an infection or disease of the heart. It can also occur as an after-effect of a heart attack.
When the left side of the heart fails to pump with enough force, fluid may collect in the lungs, making it more difficult to breathe and causing shortness of breath, particularly during exercise or while lying in bed. When backups occur on the right side, fluid begins to collect in the lower part of the body, leading to puffy legs and feet.
“The key to preventing heart failure is to start exercising early in life, and make it a lifelong habit,” said Dr. Green Conaway. “Exercise strengthens the heart, just as it does other muscles in the body. It also boosts circulation, strengthens the cardiovascular system, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and helps cells use oxygen more efficiently.”
One large study that followed men age 45 and over for nearly eight years found those who were the most physically active were least likely to develop heart failure. On the other hand, men who sat five or more hours a day and got little exercise had more than double the risk of more active men.
Cardiovascular Specialists of Lawrence offers a way to better manage your heart health with "Take Heart" – a heart risk assessment to identify your individual risk factors for heart disease. To schedule a heart risk assessment, call (785) 505-3636 or ask your primary care provider which heart risk assessment option is right for you.
Introducing Dr. Darcy Green Conaway
Darcy Green Conaway, M.D. joined Cardiovascular Specialists of Lawrence on July 18. She earned her medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1998 and completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at KU Medical Center. She completed a research fellowship in cardiology outcomes in 2002, followed by two additional fellowships in cardiology and nuclear cardiology from 2002 to 2006.
Dr. Green Conaway is board certified in cardiovascular disease and nuclear cardiology and is an active member of several professional cardiology organizations. She has received numerous honors related to cardiology, quality care and teaching.
With nearly 10 years’ experience, Dr. Green Conaway takes a collaborative approach to cardiac care. She believes in educating patients about treatment options and helping them make informed decisions that meet their needs.
“The best thing we can do for patients is inform them and find out what their goals are,” she said. “If we understand them as people, then we understand how we can help them in their lives.”
Amy Northrop is physician liaison manager at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, a major sponsor of WellCommons. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.