Heart Health: Knowing your risk factors

Heart disease is the number one cause of death worldwide.

Studies show it’s largely preventable when you know your risk factors and keep them in check. Although some heart attacks are sudden and intense, most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort.

Due to that very mild pain, doctors say often, patients overlook those warning signs. Dr. Yusuki Yahagi of Citizens Medical Center says it was chest pains that led one of his patients to question his heart health.

Risk factors of a heart attack include: chest discomfort; shortness of breath; nausea; arm or shoulder pain and jaw pain.

“He was just now having the chest pains, so he was in the midst of ischemia,” said Dr. Yahagi. “[That’s] when the blood flow decreases when you have coronary artery disease and your muscles are in danger of being dead soon, so [the patient] had to do something about it.”

Myocardial ischemia can damage your heart muscle, reducing its ability to pump efficiently. A sudden, severe blockage of a coronary artery can lead to a heart attack or cause serious abnormal heart rhythms. Yahagi says men in their 60’s or men with a family history of heart disease are at a higher risk of having ischemia and will likely need treatment or surgery if diagnosed.

Yahagi says if his patient, 64-year-old Larry Stone had ignored his chest pains it’s likely, death would of occurred. Stone says after Dr. Yahagi performed his surgery, he converted to a healthier lifestyle and began exercising through a cardiac rehab program.

“My heart rate now is like 48 beats per minute at normal resting so I have to work out pretty hard to get it to the range where I’m doing what its suppose to do,” said Stone. “You just feel better all around after working out.”

According to the American Heart Association, most people like Stone go on to live long, productive lives. However, around 20 percent of patients will have another heart attack within five years of their first.

Doctors recommend these five things for patients: take your medications; attend follow up appointments; exercise; connect with other heart patients and manage your risk factors.