Listen to your heart

Male in cardiac arrest

Heart health is easier when you know your risk

Knowing your risk can save your life. Call 785-505-3636 to schedule a heart risk assessment today. No referral required.

If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, do not delay care. Go to Emergency or call 911.

Listen to your heart

Autumn Bishop, LMH Health

Heart health is at the forefront of many minds year-round, but more so at this time of year. February is American Heart Month, a time when we’re reminded of the importance of focusing on cardiovascular health. 

More than two million men in the United States are affected by heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, accounting for about 1 in every 4 deaths.

So what is heart disease? It encompasses several conditions, including:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke

Dr. Michael Zabel, a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Specialists of Lawrence, said men should be mindful about the things that increase their higher risk of developing heart disease.

Know the five risk factors

“There are five – I call them the Big Five – risk factors for heart disease: family history – having a first-degree relative who developed heart disease before age 60, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and elevated cholesterol,” he said.

What can men do to reduce their risk? Dr. Zabel said that while you can’t change your family history, you can modify or eliminate others.

“Regular exercise and eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet can help lower your risk,” he said. “Some people with risk factors will need medications – not always, but frequently. Keeping all of these factors under control doesn’t eliminate your risk, but it can significantly reduce it.”

Watch for signs and symptoms

Even if you don’t think you’re at risk for heart disease, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms.

“The main symptom to be on the lookout for is chest discomfort. It’s not generally pain like someone poking you in the chest with a sharp stick,” Dr. Zabel said. “It’s more of a pressure sensation, squeezing or burning – anywhere between the nose and navel. It’s particularly important for you to seek help if it’s associated with shortness of breath, nausea or feeling faint.”

Other symptoms to watch for include weakness and extreme fatigue, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, dizziness, indigestion and heartburn. If you experience these symptoms, seek help immediately. Don’t risk riding out a heart attack at home – even during the COVID pandemic.

Don't delay care due to COVID-19

During the early days of the pandemic, studies showed large decreases in visits to hospital emergency departments. Nationally between March and June 2020, visits decreased by 30 percent while at the same time, deaths increased by 30 percent.

“People who would have normally gone to the emergency department but didn’t because they were worried about getting COVID – may have died at home,” said Dr. Zabel. “Our ED staff is wonderful with their care and techniques. The risk of an individual coming into the ED and getting COVID because of that visit is extremely small.”

He also said that heart failure patients, particularly those with a history or frequent exacerbations and know that they need to come in, may postpone because they’re afraid of contracting COVID.

“Patients who wait to come in may land in the ICU when they wouldn’t have if they’d come in earlier. In some cases, they might not have needed to be admitted at all,” Dr. Zabel said. “If you’re having symptoms that could be a heart attack or heart failure, don’t hesitate to come to the emergency department and get evaluated. Your chances of having a complication from riding that out at home are much higher. We’re here and will care for you safely when you need us.”

Does Medicare cover the cost of heart disease screening?

Yes. Medicare covers the costs for heart disease screening tests and behavioral therapy for cardiovascular disease. Know your numbers and identify your risk factors so you can make healthy lifestyle choices.

Here are a few tools to get you started:

Autumn Bishop is the marketing communications manager at LMH Health.